Wednesday, January 7, 2009

USS George HW Bush Crew Preps for Commissioning

In this file photo, Airman Ryan Miller, left, Quartermaster 1st Class Christopher Dorner and Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Ryan Jones, assigned to the aircraft carrier Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) prepare to be the first crewmembers to hoist the American flag over the fantail of the aircraft carrier, August 8, 2008. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Nicholas Hall.)

Focus on Defense:

NORFOLK, Jan. 7, 2009 -- Thousands of U.S. Navy Sailors are polishing, painting and preparing to commission the newest Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) Jan. 10.

The former president and ship's namesake along with his son, President George W. Bush, will attend the ceremony pierside as the nuclear-powered vessel prepares to join the U.S. Atlantic Fleet as one of the largest warships sailing the globe.

"This is the payoff for all the hard work," said Electronics Technician 1st Class Robert Feathers of San Bernardino, Calif.

Sailors have a wide-range of duties to welcome thousands, from driving buses to transport guests while at Naval Station Norfolk to coordinate the logistics of the visits of high-level dignitaries to bringing hundreds aboard the massive warship for tours.

"It's pretty much like a small town and everybody is working together to serve one purpose," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Nekeia Borders of Dallas, Texas.

"I couldn't pass up the chance to [pre-commission] a ship that I share the same last name with," said Aviation Support Equipment Technician 1st Class James Bush, of Sebastopol, Calif., who is not related to the ship's namesake. He'll help coordinate a fleet of 55 buses and five extra vehicles to transport thousands of guests to the ceremony at the ocean side base.

Aviation Electrician's Mate 2nd Class Duston Dean, a native of Pascagoula, Miss. and a veteran of five carriers, said serving aboard Bush will be different than any other.

Sailors on Navy ships are expected to maintain standards, he said, but Bush Sailors have a rare opportunity to do more as the first crew.

"Here, we're setting the standard," he said. "We're making the ship what it's going to be from now. I'm very proud to be a plank owner."

Machinist's Mate 1st Class Larry Harris, of Narrows, Va. shares the same pride as commissioning day beckons. "It's something I'll cherish for the rest of my life, I'm sure," he said. "It'll be the highlight of my career."

Lt. Erik Coplin, a nuclear reactor officer, served aboard attack submarines before joining the ship's crew on the carrier.

The differences between a submarine with a 150-Sailor crew and his new warship with an eventual population of more than 5,500 are "phenomenal," he said.

"Just to think of the mass size of the ship and try to put it together it's amazing and exciting," said the Flint, Mich. native. "As a salt, I want to really shake the ship and get back to sea."

(Report by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Barrie Barber, U.S. Fleet Forces Command Public Affairs.)

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