CARTAGENA, Spain (NNS) -- USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) anchored off the coast of Cartagena, Spain, June 6, marking the first time the nation's newest Nimitz-class aircraft carrier has visited mainland Europe.
Nearly 5,000 Sailors of George H.W. Bush and its embarked airwing will spend several days visiting the Spanish port and nearby towns through tours offered by the ship's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) department. Cartagena is the second overseas port call for George H.W. Bush, which recently completed a four-day visit to Portsmouth, England.
"Our overall conduct in Portsmouth was outstanding, and it set the tone for future liberty ports," said Command Master Chief (AW/SW) Roger Grose of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8, the embarked airwing assigned to George H.W. Bush.
Grose said he looked forward to seeing the city of Cartagena because of the climate and the fact that it gave the opportunity for liberty to a deserving crew.
"I love Europe and its weather because it's colder," said Grose, an Ohio native. "This port call provides me and many members of our crew the first opportunity to visit Cartagena, so that we can recharge our batteries, take some time off and enjoy what the city has to offer."
Grose said that being able to visit a European port so close to ancient castles and churches provides a unique opportunity for Sailors who are just experiencing their first deployment.
"You can't help but bump into history," he said.
For at least one Sailor serving aboard George H.W. Bush, Cartagena is much closer to home than the ship's homeport of Norfolk, Va.
Aviation Structural Mechanic 3rd Class Isabel Ruiz was born in Pilar de La Horadada, located a short drive from Cartagena. She plans on visiting her three brothers, two sisters and niece during the port visit.
"All I really want to do is to see my family," she said. "I go back every other year or so, but it is nice to do it while out on deployment."
George H.W. Bush Sailors will be joined in Cartagena by Sailors from the Spanish frigate ESPS Almirante Juan de Borbón (F 102). Borbón has been a coalition member of George H.W. Bush Strike Group since September 2010, and will depart from the strike group shortly after the port call for a national tasking.
"It is a pity that the carrier has to anchor out at sea," said Cmdr. Benigno Gonzalez-Aller, Borbón commanding officer. "But I am sure the citizens of Cartagena will quickly know that the carrier is anchored nearby when they see the Sailors running ashore."
Borbón is only the second Spanish ship to serve with a U.S. carrier strike group. Gonzalez-Aller said training with the U.S. has been tremendously effective.
"We will never get a better scenario to train ourselves," he said, adding that the opportunity to share the last port call with the strike group in Spain was a fitting end.
"It is something great," he said. "Something I could not have dreamed of."
George H.W. Bush departed its homeport of Norfolk, Va., May 11, and entered the 6th Fleet area of responsibility May 17.
For more news from USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn77/.