|LT Alejandro Hernandez Shooting an F/A-18C Hornet of the Wildcats (VFA-131) Off the Ike|
I can't remember what time we arose to head out to the pier, I'm thinking four-ish or so. At any rate it was pretty early. In fact it was so early that traffic on I-264 to I-64 to I-564 was virtually non-existent. For those of you who have lived and worked in the Norfolk area, you know that's a rare event!
So we arrived at the pier, in the dark but on the up-side there was plenty of parking. (Note that at this point I have to fess up and take the blame for wanting to get up so early, as a matter of fact, we got to the pier about 90 minutes before they were planning on boarding us!)
At the time the Ike was tied up at this pier (the one with the USS George Washington below.) And we were parked just out of the frame over to the left. Finally we met up with the Nuke (who had spent the night onboard) and we made our way onto the ship. Straight to the Nuke's state room. Where I proceeded to turn on the TV and make myself at home.
Eventually (when they removed the brow) we headed up to the hangar deck where most of the festivities would occur. There I found an actual ice coffee dispenser (which I would be hitting throughout the day) and a place to smoke. (For in those days I was a smoker. I am now a former smoker. I won't say non-smoker, Skip would understand.)
Eventually we got underway. I was like a little kid, going from one hangar bay door to another to watch outside. One of the Ike's helos was airborne, keeping an eye on things. There may have been a Coastie or two steaming alongside as well. I don't remember. All I remember is being onboard a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, heading out to sea. Stuff like that really gets me going!
Now those familiar with the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area no doubt know of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. You know, this -
Now I've driven over this a number of times (17 miles long, two underwater tunnels, it's really cool!) I've also seen it from the air a number of times, flying into Norfolk. But this was the first time I would see it from the water. Like this - (again it's the USS George Washington standing in for the Ike)
Once out at sea we got to go up to the flight deck and watch a nice little mini-air show put on by one of the Ike's helos and two of the air wing's fighters: an F/A-18E and a F/A-18F. Both of which did multiple supersonic passes at flight deck level. They were also dropping practice bombs and firing their 20mm cannon at some smoke floats which the helo had put down.
The Missus Herself felt the helo crew was far too slow in doing this. At the time the WSO was dating a helo pilot, named Jonathan. So it was most amusing to hear her muttering (to herself she thought) "Come on Jonathan, drop the smoke. Drop it! Drop it now. Jeez what's taking so long?"
I really enjoyed the gun runs. Here's an example -
It was a long day but it was an awesome day. I'd do it again, in a heartbeat! It's why I always think of the Ike as "my" carrier. (Don't tell the Nuke, she thinks it's "her" carrier!)
The following video was taken on the Ike while she was deployed to the Middle East in 2o12. One of the coolest parts of the video (IMHO) comes at about 2:06 into the video. You can see the USS Hué City (CG-66) come into the picture astern of Ike, her colors flying. An awesome sight!
I'm here to tell you, the crew of the Ike and her embarked air wing have spent a lot of time at sea over the past couple of years. Keep those sailors and Marines in your prayers!