SAN FRANCISCO (NNS) -- Thousands of spectators gathered along the embarcadero and Marina Green Oct. 7 to view the annual parade of ships, kicking off San Francisco Fleet Week 2006.
The flotilla of Navy vessels highlighting the event included the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) and the guided-missile destroyers USS Chafee (DDG 90), USS Higgins (DDG76) and USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53). U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast (WMEC 623) also participated in the procession.
Nimitz arrived with complete air wing aboard, offering onlookers the unique opportunity to watch two F/A-18 Hornets launch and streak across the San Francisco skyline.
Rear Adm. Terry Blake, commander, Carrier Strike Group 11, said events like the parade of ships offer the public a glimpse of what the military is capable of and what they are doing around the world.
"If you look at the total number of people in the service, both on active duty and in the reserves, we are a very small percentage of the population, but we are a very critical piece," Blake said. "That's why I think it's important that people know that we're out there and we're doing great things. I think that you will find, particularly in this time with the global war on terror, that the American people are appreciative of what these people are doing."
The parade of ships marks the beginning of the weeklong celebration of the sea services. In addition to the parade of ships, Sailors will offer residents and visitors to the waterfront shipboard tours, live music performances and flight demonstrations by the Blue Angels.
For some though, the Parade of Ships is the highlight of the annual event established in 1981 by then Mayor Dianne Feinstein.
"One of the things that inspired me to join the Navy was watching the ships pull in," said Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Andrew Coats. "The presence of the Sailors and the display of power were so impressive that I joined the Navy less than a year later."
Carey Wilkinson, a resident of San Francisco, has enjoyed the event every year for the past six years.
"Every year it's very exciting to see all the ships and Sailors at Fleet Week," said Wilkinson. "The capabilities and technology the Navy has are very impressive and not something we see everyday in San Francisco."
In addition to planned activities to increase awareness of the sea services, some of the more than 7,000 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen in San Francisco for Fleet Week will participate in community service projects ranging from building homes with Habitat for Humanity to working with children at the California School for the Deaf.
For more news from around the fleet, visit www.navy.mil.