Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Adventures At Sea

Adventures At Sea

October 23, 2013

With Veteran’s Day coming up next month, I would like to devote the next few blogs to telling you of my adventures at sea aboard the USS George H. W. Bush as a Distinguished Visitor on August 8-9, 2013.  I do not know how many blogs it will take to properly detail everything, but I really want a chance to convey the depth of everything that I saw and experienced while on this trip.  I want you all to experience this trip through my words and descriptions!  I will also try to include some photos!

Anyone that has known me any length of time knows that I am absolutely fascinated with the Armed Services, especially Military Aircraft.  You’ll also know that until Lord of the Rings came out, my one and only, all-time favorite movie was Top Gun – hands down, bar none, absolute favorite!  I have even seen the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds in shows at our local regional airport.  My goal in life growing up was to join the military and do something - anything, with planes.  Just in case you didn’t read my previous blog, that was not the path my life took, but I have never lost the fascination.  

The last four years, I’ve been attending a conference in Norfolk in the summer for my teaching job and I have been able to tour some Navy vessels in person.  Being the curious and nosy person that I am, I have enjoyed these adventures tremendously!  I have toured the USS Wisconsin, a decommissioned Battleship that is now a museum at the Nauticus Naval History Museum in Norfolk.  I have been privileged and honored to be welcomed aboard the USS Helena (SSN 725), a Los Angeles Class Submarine, the USS San Jacinto (CG 56) a Ticonderoga-class cruiser, and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69), a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, all while in port at the Norfolk Naval Station and all very much an active part of today’s Navy.  From a military nut perspective, they were all amazing trips and I was so impressed by our military personnel that I had opportunity to meet.  

During my visit aboard the USS San Jacinto, I was watching the fighter jets circling the naval base and I asked one of the officers that was with our tour group, “What kind of chance do you think I would have of ever getting a ride in one of those jets?”   He kind of chuckled at me and told me to write to my Congressmen and ask them for help with it and see what happened.   In August of 2012, I wrote a letter to Senator Mark Warner of Virginia and Congressman Morgan Griffith of the 9th District of Virginia and asked them if they could help me achieve this dream.  I told them how a trip of this nature would physically, mentally, and emotionally incorporate all areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) learning and then some.  The first-hand knowledge and experience that I could bring back to these students would be so worthwhile and beneficial.  I could explain to the students how many individual drawings are required for a design such as a Navy Fighter Jet.  I could explain the science behind the jet propulsion having experienced it.  I could describe from personal experience the effects of G-forces on the human body.  The lessons could be endless.  About three weeks later, I received information from both offices that a petition had been made to the Department of the Navy on my behalf!  Needless to say, I was thrilled!

When the official response came back from the Navy about three to four weeks after that, they informed me that they could not offer a flight in a Navy Jet, but they could offer me a DV Embark Trip aboard an underway aircraft carrier.  The DV Embark program is the Distinguished Visitor (DV) Embark Program places key leaders from all sectors of society - corporate, civic, government, education, non-profit and service - aboard a deployed carrier. While aboard, embarkees meet the talented young men and women who bring these ships to life, and they experience first-hand how the Navy is contributing to the security of the United States, and to the stability of the global community.  DVs are flown via Navy helicopter or aboard a C-2 Greyhound Carrier Onboard Delivery aircraft, or COD, to a U.S. Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carrier operating at sea. Guests spend one or two days meeting with the ship's leaders, interacting with Sailors and Marines, touring the ship and observing a full spectrum of operations.   I replied to them immediately to let them know that I was most definitely interested and I would love to go whenever the opportunity arose.  This was in September of 2012.

Nearly one full year later, I still had not heard anything from the Navy about this trip so I had almost given up hope until July of this year, when I received an email from the Department of the Navy telling me that they had an Embark opportunity aboard the USS George H. W. Bush on August 8-9, 2013.  After filling out the paperwork required for the back ground check, I received confirmation that I would be among a group of civilians to fly via C2 Greyhound to the USS GHWB while it is underway and conducting flight operations somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean!   I left home on August 7, 2013 bound for Norfolk Naval Station, not knowing exactly where I was going, just knowing that I was going to be living a dream-come-true for a couple of days and anticipating every moment of this trip!!

Check back next week for more to this story!

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