HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (NNS) -- Since the beginning of our nation, the name "Enterprise" has been a part of the Navy. Eight ships have borne the name, including the current aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), which recently celebrated it's 40th anniversary.
The name is also synonymous with the "Star Trek" television franchise, including the newest series, "Enterprise," on the United Paramount Network. The generations of past, present and future were recently brought together as three USS Enterprise Sailors were given their 15 minutes of fame on the set of "Enterprise."
Aviation Electronics Technician 1st Class (AW/SW) Robert S. Pickering , Aviation Electronics Mate 2nd Class (AW/SW) Timothy J. Whittington, and Personnelman 3rd Class (SW/AW) Sarah E. Pizzo -- Enterprise Senior Sailor, Junior Sailor and Blue Jacket of the Year for 2001 respectively -- were offered the opportunity to be extras on Paramount's "Enterprise" television series. The trip was a special treat for these Sailors.
"I was completely amazed," said Pizzo. "It's a huge privilege to be here. It's a great opportunity to be a representative of the Enterprise and for the other 3,000 Sailors on board."
"I was shocked at first. I couldn't really believe it was happening," Whittington added. "I called all my family and friends. They didn't actually believe me; but I have to take photos back to prove that I was here."
The publicist for the television "Enterprise" and the carrier's public affairs office planned the trip in a little more than a month.
"Since they announced the name of the new series last year, we've been trying to work out a connection between their Enterprise and USS Enterprise," said Chief Journalist (SW/AW) Mark O. Piggott, the carrier's assistant public affairs officer. "When Paramount approached me about having the Sailors of the Year come out and be extras on the show, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we just couldn't pass up."
Paramount's "Enterprise" of the future and the Navy's Enterprise of today do in fact share a bond that surpasses more than just a name: the bond between the fictitious and the actual crew members.
"We've kind of had a relationship with them since last year -- certainly with what happened on Sept. 11th elevated that," said actor Scott Bakula, who plays Capt. Jonathan Archer on the television series. "There's a connection obviously in the past with USS Enterprise and the Enterprise in the franchise."
He continued, "We've been very connected to the crew. We've been sending them tapes of the shows, taped messages and we've been getting back things. It's fantastic that they can make it here."
As the USS Enterprise Sailors learn the ins-and-outs of a weekly television series, they learn that there are a lot of similarities between the long hours that both crews put into their ships.
"I think what (their crew) does on a daily basis is amazing," Pickering said. "They all work together toward the mission or final product. They make sacrifices, such as long hours and a lot of repetitive work," he concluded.
"I thought acting was an easy job," Whittington added. "But it was a little bit more than that. Everybody worked together as a team."
"You don't realize how many people behind the scenes that it takes to drive this 'Enterprise,'" said Pizzo.
Another common tie is the tradition of the name Enterprise. According to Bakula, the show takes the name and all it's history into the next century.
"I think we're continuing a tradition," Bakula said. "And I would like to think that if there comes a time that we have this capability of actually putting this kind of a ship or something similar to it into space, I would hope one of the first names they pick out will be Enterprise."
Plans are in the works for Bakula and other cast and crew to visit USS Enterprise in the future. Currently, the carrier is dry-docked at Norfolk Naval Shipyard going through a year-long overhaul.
"I can't wait. I hope that will work out," Bakula said. "I've never been on an aircraft carrier; I've only seen them in the movies."
Bakula, whose father served in the Navy as a pilot, is looking forward to the experience. "I'm sure it will be really eye-opening to be there in real life and see what's going on," he said.
The show featuring the Enterprise Sailors of the Year is tentatively titled "Desert Crossing," and is scheduled to air on May 8. Though serving only as background extras in the engineering space, the Sailors believe their 15 minutes of fame was worth it.
"Just to be here, to experience this, meeting the stars and seeing the teamwork of how it's all done is something I will never forget," Pickering said. "I'll be talking about this experience from now until forever."
For more information on USS Enterprise, go to http://www02.clf.navy.mil/enterprise.