USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, At Sea (NNS) -- Jan. 20, more than 5,000 Sailors said goodbye to their families and friends as USS George Washington (CVN 73), the embarked Carrier Air Wing 7, Commander Carrier Group 8 and Destroyer Squadron 28 departed Norfolk for a scheduled deployment to the Mediterranean Sea and possibly the Persian Gulf.
This is GW's first opportunity to rejoin the global war on terrorism since she returned from her last deployment, Dec. 20, 2002.
In the pre-dawn hours before the ship pulled out of Pier 14, Capt. Martin Erdossy, GW's commanding officer, was quick to praise the capabilities of his ship's crew and left no doubts that they were ready to take the fight wherever it may be needed.
"It was just 13 months ago that we returned from our 2002 deployment, and now we are once again ready to go anywhere in the world and do our part in the global war on terrorism," Erdossy said. "I am very proud of these Sailors, and it is a credit to the flexibility of this fine warship."
While Erdossy's confidence is appreciated by his crew, the day began somewhat somber. With temperatures in the teens and a wind chill in single digits, the families who came to see their Sailors off hid from the wind in their vehicles. Most Sailors said their goodbyes at home, making the frozen trip to George Washington alone. But the mixed emotions of leaving behind loved ones was overshadowed by the strong sense of pride they have in anticipating their opportunity to fight the global war on terrorism.
"It's hard for me to see my husband leave," Jasmine Billups said, wiping away a tear. "I'm very proud of him. I'm glad that he gets the chance to travel and see other countries, but it's very hard on the children."
Her husband, Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Brandon Billups, feels the same and says the part of deployment he's looking forward to the most is the birth of his son. "We're going to name him David Lionnel," Billups said. "Jasmine is going to send me pictures, but until I can come home, she told me to keep my head on a swivel and always pray. So that's what I'm going to do."
Getting in the right mindset is important for all Sailors on deployment. Rear Adm. Denby Starling, commander, George Washington Strike Group, knows how much Sailors need the support of their families to achieve that mindset. "If there was one thing I would wish, it would be that every mother, father, brother, sister, spouse and child would have every opportunity to hear just how happy I am with their Sailor's performance," he said. "Certainly, they're motivated by patriotism and a desire to do their jobs well, but it's the support Sailors receive from their families that truly keeps them going. I thank them all for that support."
With the support and motivation provided by families, GW Sailors are certain to do well on deployment.
"For those who haven't been out before, there is a little anxiety amongst them and their families," Starling said. "They should all take comfort in knowing that they are deploying in the finest, best-trained Navy in the world. I would rather be heading off on our side of the game than having to face us."
When GW deployed in 2002, all Sailors went knowing they were needed and knowing what they would face. They might not know what they will face this deployment, but they still know they are needed. So despite the cold, they boarded GW feeling proud and confident, and their families began to plan their return.
"This is my daughter's first deployment," said Candy Cathran, mother of Electronics Technician 3rd Class Karen Drum, as Drum's siblings Kelsey, Candace and Bobby waved goodbye from the back seat of the car. "We can't help worrying about her, but we are so very proud."
"We drove up from Iron Station, N.C.," added Drum's father, Bob Cathran. "We wanted to see her off right, and we're going to come back when the ship pulls in so we can welcome her home."
Joining GW in the George Washington Strike Group are the Norfolk-based guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) and the guided-missile destroyer USS Bulkeley (DDG 84), the combat logistics ship USNS Supply (T-AOE 6) from Naval Weapons Station Earle, N.J., and HMCS Toronto, a Canadian Halifax-class patrol frigate.
For related news, visit the USS George Washington (CVN 73) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn73.