USS RONALD REAGAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) had the opportunity to meet three professional football players from the National Football League April 7 when they came aboard Reagan for a taste of Navy life and to sign autographs for the crew.
The United Services Organization (USO) sponsored the trip as part of the NFL's 40th anniversary and included Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Bryce Fisher, Atlanta Falcons defensive end Patrick Kerney and offensive tackle for the world champion Pittsburgh Steelers Max Starks. Reagan's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Division also helped to coordinate the visit.
The players exited their C-2 aircraft on the flight deck with big smiles on their faces and photojournalists at their heels. After enjoying lunch with both Reagan's commanding and executive officers, the NFL team members spent more than three hours signing autographs and interacting with the crew.
"I truly appreciate the job the armed forces are doing," said Starks. "Especially the Navy, giving air support to our men and women that are in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the Gulf region. It's really an honor to be amongst these men and women and Sailors."
Starks also presented Reagan's Commanding Officer, Capt. Terry B. Kraft, with an autographed Seattle Seahawks jersey from the most recent Superbowl.
The appreciation seemed to be mutual, and the waiting line to speak with the NFL players made its way the entire length of Regan's mess decks. Sailors were flipping through Super Bowl magazines and shuffling back and forth, eagerly glancing over the heads in front of them for the chance to meet the stars.
"I'm absolutely ecstatic that the NFL players came on to the ship," said Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Mauricio Nichol. "I think it's a great morale booster, and I'm really happy that they're here visiting us in the middle of the Arabian Gulf."
According to Illustrator/Draftsman 1st Class (SW/AW) Michael Obney, who said he has been a Seattle Seahawks fan since he was seven years old, the event was a memorable experience.
"It meant a great deal to me that Mr. Fisher took time out of his busy schedule to come say hello to me," said Obney.
Reagan is currently deployed in the Persian Gulf as part of a routine rotation of U.S. maritime forces in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, as well as conducting Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the region.
MSO set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. MSO deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.
Commissioned in 2003, Reagan is the Navy's newest Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and departed San Diego Jan. 4 on her maiden deployment.
For related news, visit the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.