NORFOLK (NNS) -- Sailors aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) received a special visit Feb. 22 from the Honorable Dr. Robert M. Gates, the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF). Gates' visit to Truman was his first carrier visit as SECDEF.
The two-hour visit started on the ship's flight deck when SECDEF arrived via helicopter and was greeted by Commander, Fleet Forces Command Adm. John B. Nathman; Rear Adm. William E. Gortney, commander, Strike Group 10 and Capt. Herman A. Shelanski, Truman's commanding officer.
Gates began his visit aboard Truman by meeting with Nathman in the commanding officer's in-port cabin. Gates then ate lunch in Wardroom 3 with numerous heads of departments, as well as Truman's Sailor of the Year, Personnel Specialist 1st Class (AW/SW) Robbie D. Smith, and the 12 Sailors selected for Truman's Departmental Sailor of the Year awards.
Gates and his official party dined on a meal of chicken, catfish and barbecue as they enjoyed the company of Truman's officers and Sailors of distinction. The meal was a celebration of Black History Month following the "Golden 13" ceremony conducted by Harry S. Truman's Heritage Committee, held in the forecastle that morning.
"To be totally honest I was a little nervous about meeting him, because of his job title," Smith said. "I didn't realize he would be as open and friendly as he was, but it was a truly great experience to hear him talk so candid and to be so open to our thoughts and opinions over lunch."
Immediately following the luncheon, Gates was escorted by Gortney and Shelanski for a tour of Truman, including the ship's reactor spaces, hangar bay, flight deck, bridge and a ride up to the flight deck on Aircraft Elevator 1 (ACE 1).
After the bridge tour an awards ceremony was held. Gates presented Smith and the 12 Department Sailors of the Year honorees with individual awards for their hard-earned distinction.
Finally, Gates spoke to the entire Truman crew via the ship's 1MC system.
"Growing up in Wichita, Kansas, I didn't exactly have a lot of opportunities to go to the ocean," Dr. Gates said in his address. "I have to tell you, the last time I was on an aircraft carrier was before most of [the Sailors] were born."
Gates went on to thank the Sailors aboard Truman for their hospitality in taking time out of their busy schedule to show him the capabilities of the warship. He also congratulated the crew for getting Truman out of the ship yards and back to sea.
"From all I've seen today, you're ready to take on similar challenges and more," Gates said. "Good luck to you all."
Upon concluding his public address to the ship's company, Dr. Gates proceeded to the flight deck where he stopped for a few minutes and offered his gratitude and said farewell to the Truman crew before departing for Washington.
Gates' visit to Truman was one of several stops in Norfolk to meet service members and commanders.
Gates was sworn in as the 22nd Secretary of Defense on December 18, 2006.
For related news, visit the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.