NORFOLK (NNS) -- USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) held a Friends and Family Day Cruise (FFDC) aboard the ship June 2, in an effort to show loved ones what Sailors do on a daily basis.
During the 12-hour cruise, visitors toured the ship, learned how various departments support the mission and enjoyed entertainment sponsored by the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) department, including a performance by the Jacksonville Jaguars cheerleaders.
Lt. Cmdr. Judd McLevey, Truman’s FFDC coordinator and the assistant air operations officer, said the event is a good way for Sailors to show their families how the aircraft carrier works and how their jobs support the mission.
“The reason for setting up an event like this is to give families an opportunity to see what their Sailors do day-to-day,” McLevey said. “We go home and talk about what we do, but that’s not the same as them being able to see.”
McLevey said preparing the ship for so many guests was an all-hands evolution. The Deck Department loaded equipment and Supply Department contributed food and supported the vendors. The Air Department helped set up in the hangar bay and flight deck. Engineering provided the electric power.
A highlight of the day was an air-power demonstration on the flight deck and in the air, which included F/A-18 flybys, smoke bombs in the distance and two sonic booms. Truman's Air Department launched and recovered aircraft with the visitors watching closely behind the foul line.
Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 3rd Class (AW) Dustin Siders said the air show was fascinating, but the experience was enhanced because he shared it with his wife.
“My favorite part was when the Super Hornet broke the sound barrier,” said Siders. “It flew right above the boat, you didn’t hear anything and fog was right behind it. Then all of a sudden there was a big boom. It was a once in a lifetime experience for her. She was really excited about that.”
The visitors were also able to travel the ship visiting different workspaces with their Sailors for self-guided tours. Siders said he took his wife around the ship so she could get a feel for what he did daily.
“I got to show her where I work and she put visuals with a lot of stuff that we talked about,” Siders said. “Now, she knows what it’s like for us when we’re on the ship days, weeks and months at a time.”
MWR sponsored video game tournaments and a magician who wowed the audience with fire and more. An MWR representative, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Apprentice Narin Khongphatthana, said all the months of planning came together for a productive day.
“Besides showing the families what we do, we wanted them to have fun. That’s where MWR comes in,” Khongphatthana said. “It was pretty fun playing with all the kids and being challenged to games. The whole day was boredom-free.”
According to all the children aboard, the magician and the Jaguar cheerleaders stole the show. The children watched the magician perform a number of tricks from swallowing fire to making a $100 bill reappear after burning it.
Danielle Lafontaine of the Jaguar cheerleaders said she was excited about performing on the ship, meeting Sailors and getting underway.
“I’ve never experienced anything like that air show. You get to see them fly over the stadium sometimes, but never like that,” said Lafontaine. “We appreciate all that you do for us and we’ll never be able to repay you. The performance is just a little bit of what we do to show that.”
Another cheerleader, Tiffany Bowen, said she appreciated being on the ship because her father is a retired Sailor.
“My dad met my mom when he was stationed in Guam. I was born there,” Bowen said. “It’s really cool to be on such a big ship and not feel like you’re on a ship.”
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Apprentice Kenneth Wilson said he didn’t know the cheerleaders were coming, but it was an interesting surprise.
“The performance was great and really creative. I thought it was a great experience for the little girls in the crowd to come on stage and learn some cheers,” said Wilson. “It was inspiring for the girls to hear that the cheerleaders were medical professionals, teachers and college students as well as cheerleaders.”
Friends and Family Day was about showing the guests how the ship operates, how the Sailors live out to sea and how Truman defends the country in wartime.
For more from USS Harry S. Truman, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.