My dad got to see what life aboard an aircraft carrier was like when he went on the USS George H. W. Bush Tiger Cruise. The ship pulled into Mayport, Florida a few days before returning to Norfolk. My dad boarded the ship there, along with about 1,200 other tigers – family members (no spouses or significant others are allowed on tiger cruises) and friends – and rode the ship back into port in Norfolk. Here is what my dad had to say about his cruise experience:
I flew to Yorktown on Tuesday, December 6th. After spending most of the next day playing with the grandkids and helping Jenny put up outside Christmas decorations, Jenny drove me to Norfolk where I boarded a bus that took us to Mayport, Florida. We arrived in Florida on Thursday morning where the ship was waiting for us.
After being processed, Father Daigle, the Catholic chaplain on the ship, met me and escorted me onto the ship. (Jarrod was busy with his duties at the time and arranged for Father Daigle to be my temporary sponsor.) He showed me to my room and then we went to Mass. After Mass, we went to the wardroom to eat lunch.
After lunch, I met up with Jarrod on the flight deck and the tour began. He gave me a brief tour of the flight deck and hangar bay. This is the catapult that launches the jets off of the ship.
While we were up on the flight deck, we watched the burial at sea ceremony for a retired Navy Commander.
We continued with the tour on the flight deck. Jarrod showed me one of the helicopters on board.
Afterward we went down into the ship and he showed me around. We went to his office.
He showed me where he does his laundry. Yes, even officers have to do their own personal laundry.
We went to the diesel engine room. These engines operate the auxiliary generators that would be used in the event that nuclear power is interrupted.
During the Tiger Cruise, the commander’s living quarters were open to visitors, so we went there. The commanding officer has his own kitchen with his own private chef. When any dignitaries are on the ship, they are hosted in the commander's quarters.
Jarrod showed me this parts locker. He is the supply officer in charge of keeping track of all of the parts stored here.
On Friday, the Navy showed off some of their capabilities. We watched helicopters taking off, landing and simulating some rescue operations.
We also saw the fighter jets landing and taking off.
On a playful note, the carrier acted as the official in a race between a cruiser and two destroyers that were a part of the carrier group. We had blow by blow description of the race over the loudspeaker system.
During the cruise, all of the Tigers were given a Personnel Qualification Standard booklet. As we toured all of the different departments and heard descriptions of the duties of that department, we collected signatures of the personnel in charge of that station. There was an award ceremony on Friday afternoon where the Commanding Officer presented the Tigers a certificate and pin signifying completion of the qualifications to be a Surface and Aviation Warfare Specialist (TSAWS). I had the privilege of being pinned by Jarrod.
On Saturday, we pulled into port. Jarrod and I were near the front of the ship waiting to catch a glimpse of Jenny, Trenton, Charlotte, and Nancy. We were in contact by phone and they told us where they were standing, so we moved to a place where we would be directly in front of them. It didn't take long to spot them in the crowd.
I had a great time on the cruise. Everyone that Jarrod introduced me to was very nice. I met officers, enlisted personnel, and some of their Tigers. I even had the opportunity to meet Rear Admiral Nora Tyson, commander of the entire George H. W. Bush Strike Group.
Thank you Jarrod for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience life on a U. S. Navy aircraft carrier.