NORFOLK (NNS) -- The crew of the Navy's newest aircraft carrier welcomed aboard more than 7,000 of their friends and loved ones for first ever USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) Friends and Family Day Cruise, May 1.
After being welcomed aboard by the ship's commanding officer, Capt. Chip Miller, the guests got to feel what it was like to be on a Navy ship in open waters after the ship weighed anchor at 9 a.m., and headed out to sea.
The crew's guests were able to see firsthand what their loved ones do for a living, as well as what goes into making a $6.2 billon aircraft carrier come to life.
Included in the day's events was an air power demonstration, which included catapult-assisted takeoffs by F/A-18 Hornet squadrons, based out of Naval Air Station Oceana, Va.
"My favorite part of the day was watching the aircraft launch off the catapult," said Michael Trent, whose wife serves aboard the ship. "That's not something you can see in person every day. Some people never see it in a lifetime."
Doro Bush Koch, the daughter of former president George H.W. Bush and the ship's sponsor, hosted a special event titled, "A Celebration of Reading at Sea." The event featured authors James Bradley, who wrote "Flags of Our Fathers," and Antwone Fisher, a former Navy Sailor whose screenplay "Fish" became the basis for his self-titled movie, directed by and starring Denzel Washington.
The rest of the hangar bay was transformed into a carnival-type atmosphere, with an inflatable rock wall and moon bounce, face painting and tattoo artists on hand for the kids, as well as a static display of an F/A-18 Hornet.
The event required months of planning and extensive coordination from nearly every department on the ship, working together to bring the Friends and Family Day Cruise from the drawing board to execution.
"It's a thousand moving pieces," said USS George H.W. Bush Friends and Family Day Cruise coordinator, Lt. Shawn T. Rumbley. "Each goal we accomplish is a huge undertaking."
USS George H.W. Bush is scheduled for its first deployment in 2011.
For more news from USS George H.W. Bush, visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn77/.