“Several emotions hit me at the same time, but one was certainly pride when I embraced the ship,” said Louisiana congressman Ralph L. Abraham, when asked about his initial interactions with the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) during a distinguished visitor (DV) tour. “Once on board, I felt immense pride when I saw our young Sailors and everybody that is part of the crew. You guys believe in better communities, better schools and a better country.”
DV tours give outsiders a look at day-to-day operations on board Nimitz. It grants influential civilians and other dignitaries the opportunity to experience a Sailor’s life and show them what the U.S. Navy is capable of.
During a normal tour, visitors are flown on board and almost immediately greeted by the commanding officer, executive officer and command master chief.
After the initial greet and a couple safety briefs, half the group heads to the flight deck, and the other half heads to the island, specifically the bridge, to watch flight operations.
Visitors are also shown medical and dental and given a tour of the foc’sle, ordnance control, and the jet shop.
This well rounded schedule guarantees that the DVs interact with all functions of the ship and how everything works together.
Visitors can expect to eat in the wardroom with the officers the first night, eat breakfast the next morning in the chiefs mess, and lunch on the enlisted mess decks before they leave. This ensures they gain perspective from every rank, which helps them get a full understanding of life on board.
“A lot of times the military is so far removed from the civilian community in America,” said Lt. Christopher Moore, the V-2 Division Officer. “They see it on TV but they don’t get to experience it; they don’t get to see what we do and honestly, we can’t do what we do without the support of the people back home.”
Moore acts as a flight deck escort for the DVs that come to get a first-hand look at life on board a United States aircraft carrier.
“To a lot of people, it’s a very foreign world, the Navy, the military, so this is our chance to bring them out here and let them step into our world and see what it is that we do and how well we do it,” said Moore. “Let’s face it, no one else in the world does what we do.”
Moore said that with a shrinking percentage of American citizens who have served or are currently serving in the military, DV tours have become increasingly important. They bolster the support of family and friends back home and make the job worth it.
Petty Officer 1st Class Ynocincio Martinez, a long time DV tour guide on multiple ships, credits the tours a great deal when it comes to boosting morale.
“For me it’s about accomplishment,” said Martinez. “Anybody and everybody wants to feel good about what they do in life. DV tours not only bring up morale in the shops that get to interact with DVs, but that sense of pride carries throughout the ship when a Sailor is recognized for the work they have done.”
The tours not only benefit the ship by boosting morale and bringing the civilian and military sectors together, but they also provide an amazing experience to the guests.
One of Moore’s favorite tours happened aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). His experience involved a group, which included a foreign commander who had little to no experience on an aircraft carrier. After launching a few aircraft on the flight deck, Moore looked over at the foreign officer and was greeted by the biggest smile and large piece of non-skid lodged in his teeth. He was clearly unfazed, despite the piece of flight deck in his mouth, because he was so amazed by the operations he was seeing on the flight deck.
Moore gives praise to all the Sailors in his division. With the majority of them being fairly young, he finds comfort in their effort day in and day out in one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.
To Martinez, his favorite experiences on DV tours are the ones that involve the fairly young or the relatively old crowd. These tour members give the greatest showing of appreciation and fascination to the work that Sailors do. The reactions from these two crowds are what make the tours fun and enjoyable for him.
“Sometimes we take for granted what we do here, because we’re so used to it and we’re so good at it,” said Moore. “We forget how impressive it is because we do it so often but it really is an incredible and amazing thing these Sailors are doing at such a young age.”
At the end of the tour, Abraham was asked to comment on what he took away overall.
“It reinforced what hopefully I already knew – we are among the best of the best,” said Abraham. “We are able to sleep well at night because of the wonderful men and women aboard this carrier.”
Story by SN Cole Schroeder