Why this Aussie girl was brought home by the US Navy
LYNETTE Hartley was more excited than most to have the US Navy pull into the Port of Brisbane. In a twist of fate, on board the USS Ronald Reagan was her Queensland-born granddaughter.
"I was so excited I could hardly eat," she said from her Bundaberg home.
In a twist of fate, on board the USS Ronald Reagan was her Queensland-born granddaughter, Sienna Ryan, prompting Ms Hartley to buy a last minute train ticket to Brisbane.
Petty Officer Second Class Ryan, 25, joined the US Navy more than four years ago and has been assigned to the behemoth, 333m-long, Nimitz class aircraft carrier since December 2017.
The aviation structural mechanic (air warfare specialist) said although there was a rumour among her squad that the Ronald Reagan might head to Australia this year, there was never a guarantee.
Even if planned, port visits could be cancelled at any moment.
"Sometimes they're cancelled the day before you're supposed to pull in … and we just stay at sea," she said.
"It can be heartbreaking."
Ms Ryan, who is based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan, is part of the Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 141 (VAQ-141), where she works on electronic attack jets, the EA-18G Growlers.
"I work on different components, from the landing gear, the tail hook, the hydraulic system to the flight controls," she said.
The Australian moved to Madison, Alabama in 2010, when her mother Nikki married American Michael Gardner, a contractor.
Ms Ryan left Macgregor State High School, south of Brisbane, and completed high school in the US, which she described as being "just like in TV."
Her brother, Jett Ryan, 22, also served in the US Navy but never made it back to Australia.
Ms Hartley, 78, said she only found out a few days before the ship arrived that her granddaughter would most likely be coming into port.
"But it still wasn't definite, as they can't give out any information," she said.
"The whole time they've been out there they've been surrounded by Chinese and Russian boats."
Ms Ryan, who could not wait to eat a lamington and a sausage roll, said her shipmates were excited to visit Australia, while it was surreal for her to be visiting home with the US Navy.
"It took me about two hours to get off the ship because the line was so long," she said.
"There's no guarantee you'll go to a certain country.
"There's a lot of people on the ship who have been in for 20 years and this is their first trip to Australia."
Since being in the Navy, Ms Ryan has earnt a degree in Aeronautical Science.
She plans to return to university to study aerospace engineering and astrophysics.
"I play the drums so I thought I was going to be a musician, but mostly now I'm really into space and aerospace," she said.
Ms Hartley said she and Ms Ryan went shopping together and just spent hours talking.
"We talked for hours and hours and hours when she got home," she said.
"You know what nanna's are like."
The USS Ronald Reagan is one of the largest of the more than 20 military ships anticipated to visit Brisbane from five different nations as part of Talisman Sabre, Australia's largest joint-military training exercise.
Other ships in port over the weekend included the USS William P. Lawrence, the USS Chancellorsville, the USNS Rappahannock, an American submarine, believed to be the USS Key West, and Australian submarine the HMAS Farncomb, while the USS McCampbell pulled into Townsville.
The USS Green Bay and USS Ashland have already visited, along with the Japanese ships JS Ise and JS Kunisaki,
More than 25,000 personnel from Australia, the US, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the UK are expected to participate in Talisman Sabre, with the bulk of the training July 11 to August 24 in the Shoalwater Bay area in Central Queensland.