Commissioner experiences 'the Navy at sea'

Commissioner Mike Hewitt

To the Editor:
This past weekend I had the honor and privilege of being selected to go aboard the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier representing St Mary’s County as part of the Navy’s Leader’s at Sea program. This past Spring NAS Pax River Commanding Officer Captain Heidi Fleming recommended me for the program. While on a tour of Pax River she said I should experience the Navy at sea and explained the program. It was the experience of a lifetime and one I will never forget.

After an hour in a bumpy, smelly, no frills ride in a COD (carrier onboard delivery) plane, C2 for short, we landed on the deck of the USS Harry S Truman aircraft carrier. Going from 120mph to zero in two seconds is not for the weak stomach but made for an unforgettable experience. After meeting the Captain and some senior officers in the Captain’s Quarters we spent several hours watching live take offs and landing by F18 Hornets, C2 CODs, E2 Electronic Warfare planes, helicopters and tankers. The teamwork, precision and professionalism of the crew was inspiring and impressive to watch.

Our group got tours of several areas of the ship and had dinner in the Officer’s mess hall. The food was excellent and the conversations very interesting. After dinner we got more tours and watched night operations from the upper deck.  The pilots were landing and taking off at night, in the rain with very poor visibility.  Only one pilot missed the “wire” of the many we watch and that plane caught it on the second try.   These flights went on until after 1AM in the morning. 

Up the next morning at 0600, we had the pleasure of eating breakfast in the enlisted mess hall.  Again the food was excellent and meeting all the young men and woman who serve on board was the most rewarding part of the trip.  The average age was 20 years old and the morale was sky high.  These young men and woman were excited to be training for deployment to the Med and Middle East this November.  There were over 900 woman included in the 4,800 member crew.  The ship was truly a little city, serving close to 5,000 meals three times a day while the crew worked 16 hour shifts. 

For lunch we got to eat in the Chief’s mess hall and again the experience was great.  There are over 200 of these officers on board and they are the backbone of the ship.  They train and lead the young sailors, many of them right out of high school.  It was very interesting hearing their experiences as most had served on several ships during their careers and offered different perspectives about life on board.  One common thread throughout the ship was the comradery of the crew.  They came from all parts of the country but were all bonded to their shipmates and their ship.

We left aboard the C 2 and catapulting off the ship was something I will never forget but there was something else I’ll never forget.  It’s the feeling I have that these sailors are doing their job day in and day out while I sit here writing this letter.  This experience has made me feel safer knowing these men and woman are protecting our freedom, that the United States Navy is the best in the world and makes me proud to be an American. 

Mike Hewitt
County Commissioner
District 2

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