MEDITERRANEAN SEA (NNS) -- USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) became the first aircraft carrier in 17 years to visit Haifa, Israel, July 1, and one man happens to have been on both port visits.
Lt. Otis Osei served aboard USS George Washington (CVN 73) during
its 1997 deployment, during which the ship visited Haifa. Except for one visit by USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) in 2000, no carrier would visit the Israeli port until GHWB in 2017.
"The last time I was there, Haifa was not very developed," said Osei, GHWB's nurse anesthetist in the medical department. "That's one thing I noticed immediately when we pulled in this year. They've built a train system since I was last here, so it's a lot easier to get around now. Previously you weren't allowed to travel outside Haifa unless you were with a tour. This time they allowed liberty parties to independently go to Jerusalem or Tel-Aviv."
Osei reflected on his previous visit to the Israeli port and the way this port call was a second chance for him to correct mistakes made previously.
"In a way, things have come full circle for me," said Osei. "My biggest regret from last time we that I did not take enough tours. This time, I made sure to take a lot of different tours. I took the Nazareth tour last time, so I decided to go to Jerusalem this time and that was very nice. I was able to go to Tel-Aviv and see a lot of historical sites. So this visit was kind of a fulfillment for me."
Osei offers advice for future port calls to junior Sailors by looking back to his previous experience as an Aviation Structural Mechanic newly frocked to 2nd Class.
"My advice for young Sailors would be this: enjoy the port," said Osei. "Last time I was young, so I went to a lot of bars and a lot of clubs. This time I'm older; I spent more time exploring and talking to locals and getting a feel for the local culture and how they live and how they feel. Don't just go to a bar and drink. Get a feel for their culture, enjoy the food, see the sights. The things you remember aren't going to be the bar you go to or the drink you have. It's the tours you take and the monuments you see."
"I don't remember any drink I had or a club I went to," Osei continued. "If you take pictures in clubs, they're all going to look basically the same. Take pictures of buildings and flags, of sites and people. You can brag to your friends, 'look, I went to Jerusalem!'"
On a final note, Osei said he was pleased with GHWB Sailors' behavior while in Israel.
"Behavior wise, this is the best deployment I have ever been on," said Osei. "The behavior of our Sailors has been excellent. We have presented a great image for our ship, our Navy and country. I'm very confident we'll be allowed back in the future."
GHWB's port visit to Haifa was the first such visit to the city by an aircraft carrier in many years, but it helped serve as a test run for future port visits by other carriers and strengthen the bond between the United States and its ally, Israel.
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