RIO DE JANERIO (NNS) -- USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) crew members arrived for a brief visit to Rio de Janeiro June 9.
This is the first port visit during the ship's transit to its new homeport in San Diego.
"It's significant that USS Ronald Reagan's first ever foreign port visit is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and one that has not hosted a U.S. aircraft carrier in many years," said Commanding Officer Capt. James Symonds. "We have thoroughly enjoyed operating with the Brazilian navy at sea, and were overwhelmed by the gracious hospitality the Brazilians extended to our Sailors during our ship rider exchange program."
Brazilian officers and enlisted personnel spent the past several days aboard, observing firsthand the Navy's newest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier conducting flight operations at sea. In return, a select group of Ronald Reagan officers and enlisted crew spent a day aboard the Brazilian navy's aircraft carrier, Sao Paulo, to catch a glimpse into life aboard a foreign carrier at sea. During their visit, Brazilian A-4 aircraft practiced touch-and-go maneuvers aboard Ronald Reagan's flight deck.
Continuing the spirit of foreign exchange at sea, while in Rio, crew members expect to participate in several community relations (COMREL) projects at local schools and orphanages. During this port visit, more than 500 Sailors are literally lending a hand while in port.
"For a majority of the Sailors, this is their first port visit," said Command Master Chief Kathy Hansen. "Sailors are interested in learning about the country's culture and are even more interested in helping out in the local orphanages while here. The local COMREL projects, headed by our ship's Religious Ministries Department, offers our Sailors an opportunity to achieve those goals by helping others."
For Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Timothy Whitman, supply department, this is an opportunity to satisfy his curiosity.
"The only other place outside of the 50 states I've visited is Puerto Rico, before I joined the Navy," said Whitman. "Not many people get to do what I am doing."
For some, their excitement is tinged with sadness. "Although I'm excited about being in Rio for the first time, it is bittersweet," said Chief Career Counselor (SW) James Chambers. "With the passing of President Reagan, and being a Ronald Reagan Sailor, my heart is in California right now."
"It is with great sadness that we learn of the passing of President Ronald Wilson Reagan," added Symonds. "We join the country in mourning the loss of a great American. Our prayers and condolences go out to the Reagan family in their time of sorrow. We will endeavor to carry out our namesake's message and our ship's motto -'Peace through strength.'"
At the end of this visit, the ship will continue its nearly two-month deployment while traveling around the tip of South America.
Also aboard is the Ronald Reagan Carrier Group staff, led by Rear Adm. Robert T. Moeller, and aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11, commanded by Capt. James K. Greene.
The squadrons making the transit are the "Tophatters" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14 flying the F/A-18E Super Hornet, and Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41, the "Black Aces," and their F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft, both based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.; Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 117 "Wallbangers," flying the E-2C Hawkeye 2000, from Point Magu, Calif.; the "Indians" of Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron (HS) 6 flying the SH-60F Seahawk and Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 "Providers," flying the C-2A Greyhound, both based in San Diego.
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