USS JOHN C. STENNIS, At Sea (NNS) -- Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James Winnefeld visited Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) Feb. 28 as part of the USO spring tour.
Winnefeld, Stennis' fourth executive officer, hosted the USO tour with Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, NFL wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Austin Collie, former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, American Idol finalists Diana Degarmo and Ace Young, and Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders Jackie Bob and Cassie Trammell.
The group flew aboard Stennis in a C-2A Greyhound, met with John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group leadership, observed flight operations from the bridge, and ate lunch with the crew on the mess decks.
"It was definitely a big morale booster for me to eat with the vice chairman," said Personnel Specialist 2nd Class Natalie Camden, from Arlington, Va. "I found out that he lives in my hometown, and that his son goes to my old high school."
The tour group gave a performance for the crew in the hangar bay that included DeGarmo and Young singing; Winnefeld and his wife thanking the crew and their families for their sacrifice; and football greats Manning, Jackson and Collie thanking the crew for their service, while performing football passing drills with Sailors on stage, and throwing autographed footballs into the crowd.
"It was pretty cool to catch a football from Peyton Manning and get a chance to talk to him in person," said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Brandon Weant, from Vancouver, Wash., one of the Sailors who participated in a passing drill with Manning.
"It's a pleasure to be here and I just can't thank you guys enough for what you do to protect our country," said Manning. "It truly makes me proud to be an American."
In addition, the cheerleaders passed out autographed calendars to Sailors who were able to answer Dallas Cowboys trivia and then performed a dance routine as DeGarmo and Young sang "You Shook Me All Night Long."
"I am filled with joy, respect and admiration to be here," said Bob. "Thank you so much for your service and all that you do. Without you, all of our dreams would not be possible."
"We love and appreciate you guys and ladies so very much," said Young. "We know that we can't do anything that we do back home without knowing that we are safe first and foremost, so thank you so much."
After the show, the entire tour group posed for photos with Sailors before once again boarding a Greyhound to launch from Stennis' flight deck.
The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, consisting of Stennis, Carrier Air Wing 9, Destroyer Squadron 21, and guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), is forward deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility to strengthen regional partnerships, sustain maritime security, and support combatant commander requirements for assets in the area.
For more information about Stennis visit www.stennis.navy.mil and www.facebook.com/stennis 74.
For more news from USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn74/.