ABOARD USS NASSAU (NNS) -- USS Nassau (LHA 4) celebrated her 25th birthday July 28 while at sea for engineering qualifications. Despite a five-day underway period filled with drills, qualifications and operations, the ship's crew took time out to celebrate.
The day's events included more than 260 Nassau Sailors spelling "25 YEARS" on the flight deck for a commemorative photo, a special 25th birthday cake and the onboard premiere of the Hollywood movie "Hellboy," projected theater-style more than 20 feet high on a bulkhead in the hangar bay.
Sailors began spelling out "25 YEARS" on the flight deck shortly after 9 a.m. Everyone involved braved some wind and rain showers to ensure the words were spelled out in time for a flyover one hour later by a helicopter from Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC)6.
"It worked out a lot easier than we thought it would," said Aviation Support Equipment Technician 1st Class (AW/SW) Frank Schutte, president of Nassau's First Class Petty Officer Association (FCPOA) and coordinator of the flight deck photo evolution.
"Everyone really helped us out by getting in place on time and keeping their sense of humor about it, even though they had to stand in one spot for more than 30 minutes before the helo arrived on station," added Schutte, a native of Monroe, Wis.
After lunch, a successful general quarters (GQ) drill in the afternoon and a special dinner of steak and shrimp, hundreds of Sailors gathered on the mess deck for the official birthday cake-cutting ceremony. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Robert Struckman, Nassau's food service officer, led a crew of culinary specialists in decorating a cake large enough to feed 800 Sailors. The cake consisted of 15 sheet cakes covered with frosting, containing more than 50 pounds of powdered sugar.
On hand for the cake cutting were Lt. j.g. Jehiel Lewis, a native of Houston, who also celebrated his 25th birthday July 28, and Senior Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Aircraft Handline) Mario Harris, a Nassau plankowner and native of Brooklyn, N.Y.
The day's festivities came to a close later that evening when more than 150 Sailors enjoyed the Hollywood movie "Hellboy" projected on a bulkhead in the ship's hangar bay. Dubbed a "Hangar Bay Drive-In Movie" by Nassau's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR)Department, Sailors were able to see the movie for the first time aboard Nassau one day after its release on DVD. The supply department set up a satellite ship's store in the hangar bay to sell snacks and drinks, while the FCPOA sold popcorn to those in attendance.
"We've done this several times in the past, and it's always been successful," said Hull Technician 1st Class (SW/AW) James Fontaine, a member of the MWR Department and native of New Boston, Texas. "We just received a new digital 8 mm tape player and audio system, and (the movie) looked awesome up there on the bulkhead. There wasn't an empty seat anywhere, and some Sailors even brought their own lounge chairs and deck chairs to get comfortable."
Nassau was commissioned at Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Miss. In her quarter century of service, Nassau has completed 13 deployments, numerous exercises, and participated in Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, among others. More than 11,000 Sailors have served aboard Nassau, and more than 25,000 Marines have crossed her brow. Currently, Nassau is progressing through her basic training phase in preparation for her 14th deployment.
For related news, visit the USS Nassau (LHA 4) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/lha4.