USS CARL VINSON, At Sea (NNS) -- Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Sailors welcomed more than 2,000 new shipmates for a "friends and family day cruise" off the coast of California, June 29.
"We owe a debt of gratitude to our friends and family for their support throughout our careers. Carl Vinson has spent a lot of time at sea recently, and it was terrific to be able to invite our friends and family to go to sea with us today and show them what we do," said Carl Vinson's Commanding Officer, Capt. Kent D. Whalen. "I am always proud to showcase the professionalism, teamwork and pride in performance this fine crew exhibits day in and day out."
Friends and family members experienced firsthand how Carl Vinson Sailors keep "America's Favorite Carrier" at sea and operational. After observing the underway process, eating a catered lunch and going on sponsor-guided tours, guests gathered on the flight deck for a demonstration of the ship's air and weapons power performed by Strike Fighter Squadrons (VFA) 22 and 113 and Carl Vinson's Weapons Department.
Friends and family members observed the aircraft landing pattern, touch-and-go landings, arrested landings, catapult launches and aircraft breaking the sound barrier during the demonstration.
"I loved the air show. It was awesome," said Ada Myles, a friends and family day cruise guest. "They said freedom is loud. They weren't exaggerating."
"I think, clearly, the air power demonstration is going to be the thing that people will talk about the most," said Lt. Cmdr. Benjamin Sheinman, the friends and family day cruise coordinator. "It's as close as you can come to being an aviation boatswain's mate without joining the Navy."
Vinson's size and sheer power impressed guests new to the warship.
"It's exceeded my expectations," said Charles Ogden, a father of a Carl Vinson crew member. "It's amazing to see how you can support over three or four thousand people at once. It's the greatest weapon the world has to offer, and to get to be a part of it is fantastic."
Carl Vinson's Morale, Welfare and Recreation Department also provided family-friendly games and activities in the hangar bay for the seven-hour cruise.
"We have the catered lunch as well as basketball, a bounce pit, a deejay, a magic show, a caricature artist [and] balloon animals," Sheinman said. "Almost every department had some role to play - it was an all-encompassing event."
While the friends and family day cruise focused on fun and excitement, everyone's safety was paramount, Sheinman said.
Shareef Kakhya, the son of a Carl Vinson Sailor, said he learned something about safety while participating in hangar bay activities. "You can't run because you'll fall and get hurt, and [there's] no going close to the [deck] edge."
While similar to the five-day Tiger Cruise Vinson held while transiting from Honolulu to Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI) in May, the friends and family day cruise had less restrictions, allowing more guests to attend.
"What's nice about the friends and family day cruise is that you can bring your spouse," Sheinman said. "It's a lot more open, unlike the Tiger Cruise. It's an opportunity for those who missed out on the Tiger Cruise to get the experience."
Carl Vinson recently returned to NASNI from a six-month Western Pacific deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
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