The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) and embarked air wing Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 are usually on patrol in late May to protect the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its partners and allies in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
This year, George Washington Sailors commemorated this special day “7th Fleet style” by donating their free time to foster relations with key regional partners, conduct community service projects in local communities and raise money for charities.
“Memorial Day is to remember and honor all those who have lost their lives defending this nation’s ideals of freedom and democracy,” said Capt. Greg Fenton, George Washington commanding officer. “We, as a vital cog of the Forward-Deployed Naval Forces, represent all service members, past and present, who preserved the blessings of liberty for all in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.”
The carrier started Memorial Day weekend by frocking seven Sailors to the rank of master chief petty officer on the ship’s flight deck, May 24.
“It’s always great to have more master chiefs in the fold,” said Shaun Brahmstead, USS George Washington command master chief. “To see their leaders advance gives the crew incentive to excel. Its a testament to hard work and motivation.”
George Washington’s Command Religious Ministries Department and the Hayama Lion’s Club coordinated a beach clean-up project, May 25. Seventeen Sailors took plastic bags and walked a half-mile stretch of Morito Beach in Hayama Prefecture to pick-up litter, broken glass, fishing line, and other items to help beautify the coastline.
“This project helped to continue our strong ties with the Lion’s Club and community leaders in Hayama Prefecture,” said Lt. Glen Kitzman, a George Washington chaplain. “This event ensured a lasting bond with our host nation and more importantly, built relationships with the local faces of our community. Area communities must understand that we are a trusted ally, one of respect, and one that is here on Japanese soil to serve the local needs as well as regional military interests.”
The Washington’s rugby football club participated in a six-team, international rugby tournament at Ikego, Japan. Other teams included All France, Misawa Snow Devils, Te Mana, Tokyo Crusaders and Dandelions, May 25.
The tournament was able to collect and donate approximately $600 to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Three teams walked away with placement prizes.
“When I first arrived here, I had a junior officer take me under his wing and taught me that rugby isn’t just a sport to enjoy and have fun with, but is one of the most charitable,” said Interior Communications Electrician 2nd Class Sean Gehrold, George Washington Rugby Football Club captain.
This is the third event that the rugby football club has had the opportunity to donate to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, but it does not look like it will be the last.
“It’s a tradition that we’re continuing and we’re going to keep fundraising to do our part to help those less fortunate,” said Gehrold.
George Washington also hosted 48 Sailors from the Royal New Zealand Navy Anzac-class frigate HMNZS Te Mana (F111) and eight members of the Japan and U.S. Navy Friendship Association for a comprehensive tour of the ship’s hangar bay, flight deck and navigation bridge, May 26.
“We must take advantage of every opportunity, whether it’s a joint exercise at sea or a simple ship tour, to get together with our regional partners,” said Fenton. “Every encounter with our allies contributes to a greater understanding of each others’ cultures and Navy operations, which promotes regional stability by us becoming collectively stronger as a group.”
This Memorial Day weekend’s dedication and volunteerism by George Washington Sailors was a tribute to those who laid and continue to lay the foundation of peace and stability in the 7th Fleet area of operations.
Press Release, May 30, 2013; Image: US Navy