ABOARD USS KEARSARGE, At Sea (NNS) -- The elusive "Beer Day" finally came to the crew of USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) on their 138th day of a deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Although the multipurpose amphibious assault ship has been at sea almost constantly, two short visits to Bahrain superceded the first two attempts to provide the crew their two beers each. The Navy allows ships the opportunity to hold a "beer day" after completing 45 continuous days at sea. Each crew member is allowed two beers.
Kearsarge was in Bahrain on the 42nd day of the deployment. Following the first visit to Bahrain, the ship was back in Bahrain 36 days later. Finally, 48 days after leaving Bahrain the last time, Kearsarge had been at sea long enough. Beer Day finally happened during a planned Steel Beach picnic on the flight deck. Mother Nature provided a nice day, albeit very hot.
More than 1,100 Sailors and 1,450 Marines came to the flight deck May 29 to enjoy the sun, barbeque, music and friends. While all departments played a helping hand, the heroes behind the event were Supply department, who provided a feast of a barbeque.
Deck provided some shade over the beer, and Air allowed the crew to use their flight deck that was recently cleaned for an agricultural inspection.
The kings of the grill were 2D Marine Expeditionary Brigade Commanding General, Brig. Gen Richard Natonski and Kearsarge Air Boss, Cmdr. John Funk. Their "grillsmanship" provided the crew perfectly cooked food for hours! For those Sailors who had watch during the picnic, the ship took care of them the following day with a make-up Beer Day on the mess decks.
"The picnic was an all hands effort," said Chief Warrant Officer Bernice Williamson, "and was very appreciated. We couldn't have done all this without the help from AM1 (Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class) Pawel Przybylski from AIMD (Air Intermediate Maintenance Department) who provided the barbeques. Definitely everyone pitched in to help."
This was the ship's 2nd steel beach picnic since deploying Jan. 12. The only other picnic was April 20. Thursday's picnic was a chance for everyone to unwind and relax. Sunscreen was generously handed out by Medical to protect against the sun.
Music was also provided to suit almost every conceivable taste. The menu for the day included more than 1,000 pounds of chicken, 1,060 pounds of hamburger, 500 pounds of hot dogs and 2,000 pounds of baby back ribs. Six thousand cookies were baked for the occasion, along with 6,000 pounds of Italian pasta and coleslaw. Soda was a big hit, with more that 250 cases consumed.
"It was nice to have the steel beach picnic and the time off work," Said Fire Controlman 3rd Class Lorraine Ledman. "It was all about being able to talk to your friends in 'civvies' and wander around. I got a little burned, but it was worth it!"
"This was a great way for Sailors and Marines to relax and for brothers who lost people to remember them. Everyone was taking a load off and gave people a chance to meet other people you would not otherwise see... they would always be in their office or space," said Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes. "I am very grateful for today. I had an awesome time. This was outstanding for the ship to provide this for us, and the two beers were very nice, as well. It was a great way to relax."
Kearsarge is currently on its journey home, a journey that will cross almost 9,000 miles. The crew is excited that homecoming is in sight, and the next barbeque that attend might be in their own back yard!
For related news, visit the USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/lhd3.