Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Day with the Navy

We've had a lovely stay with the Sailor Son and the DIL in Norfolk, VA. Yesterday we were treated to a drive around the Naval Station and a tour of the aircraft carrier - USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. Amazing stuff. (recent photos)

Presently there are no aircraft on board and maintenance is taking place everywhere. The ship was buzzing with people and activity though a only a fraction of the crew were present. There are normally about 5,500 people on board. The ship is huge. So huge it's impossible to get a photo that showed the hugeness! The Eisenhower is the second in the Nimitz class of carriers. It it is largest, though not the longest. My first thought as we walked down the pier was, how in the world does something that large actually float!

Here we are on the hangar deck. The Tramp and the Sailor Son are looking at the photos of the officers. The Carrier Command is on the left and the Air Command on the right. The ship's officers are on the center board.

We walked (climbed) down a few levels and saw the diesel engines the Sailor Son cares for. He showed us living quarters and the various Mess areas. He says he doesn't much like the food (no surprise to the mom of Mr. Picky Eater) but there sure is plenty of it and apparently lots of variety. I am so amazed he can find his way around. All the passages and levels are marked with codes on the wall but it still mostly all looks the same. He had to stop and think a few times to get oriented. The officer's areas are well marked and differentiated with blue tile on the floor so they were easy to avoid.

We walked (climbed) to the top level of the super structure. The closest ship you can see is the carrier USS Enterprise. Hard to tell from the photo but the row of ships and submarines goes on and on. It's the largest Naval Station in the world!

"Naval Station Norfolk occupies about 4,300 acres of Hampton Roads real estate in a peninsula known as Sewells Point. It is the world's largest Naval Station; in fact, based on supported military population, it is the largest naval installation in the world. When the 75 ships and 134 aircraft homeported here are not at sea, they are along side one of the 13 piers or inside one of the 11 aircraft hangars for repair, refit, training and to provide the ship's or squadron's crew an opportunity to be with their families. Naval Station is homeport to aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, large amphibious ships, submarines, a variety of supply and logistics ships, C-2, C-9, C-12 and E-2 fixed wing aircraft,
and H-3,H-46, H-53, and H-60 helicopters."

He said he was kind of lucky to be assigned to a garbage pick-up detail while he was waiting to be flown out to the ship, because it allowed him to learn how to get around the place!

This is taken standing on the flight deck at the bow and looking back. You still can't get the sheer size from the photo. That white tent is on the flight deck. It's a huge long tent, we're not sure what it's for.

Sailor Son and I are standing about half-way across the flight deck. Just in front of our feet is one of the catapults. For scale...the blue rectangle under the "69" is a standard sized door. When we were up at the top we were standing just above the colored letters. He said it's 10 stories up! They are allowed up there to watch when the planes are taking off and landing but they have to wear double ear protection. I can just imagine.

So when it comes down to it, we are quite pleased to be able to say we stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier! Even knowing there are currently 10 carriers with 5-6 thousand people assigned to each, and can imagine how many family members have been toured through, we still feel pretty privileged.

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