By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J.D. Levite, USS Nimitz Public Affairs
USS NIMITZ, Gulf of Oman (NNS) -- The commander of U.S. Central Command celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday at sea Nov. 26 with the crew of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68).
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the four-star general responsible for U.S. operations in 20 countries from Egypt, to Central Asia and the entire Middle East, joined the crew at the mid-point of her 8-month Western Pacific deployment operating in direct support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan.
"It's a unique American holiday," Petraeus said. "And to spend it on a unique piece of American turf – a ship that no other country can match – really makes it an enjoyable and memorable experience."
Minutes after arrival, Petraeus worked his way down ladder wells and through passageways to conduct re-enlistments and present awards to Nimitz Sailors in the ship's forecastle.
Petraeus also had the opportunity to see flight operations from the aviators' perspective when he stepped into an F/A-18F Super Hornet from the "Black Aces" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41 with Capt. Scott Conn, deputy commander of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11.
"It really was awesome to experience a bit of that today to have that Top Gun moment," said Petraeus. "To being shot off the deck and make a pretty quick landing and see again the extraordinary work that you do."
Petraeus took a helo over to visit Sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Sampson (DDG 102). Returning to Nimitz, Petraeus carved a turkey for Nimitz crew members for a memorable Thanksgiving dinner.
In addition to 1,000 pounds of traditional Thanksgiving turkeys, Nimitz' food service team served up 600 pounds of ham, 15 roasted pigs, roast-steamship rounds of beef, broiled lobster, and 150 one gallon cans of cranberry sauce.
"We brought the turkeys on board prior to leaving San Diego," said Culinary Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Kristopher Freyberg. "We wanted to make sure that was the first thing we had since we knew we would be planning for the holidays. We loaded the entire pig on outside of Hawaii, and aside from that, we've been taking it on during replenishment-at-sea little by little."
The day ended with an all hand's call, where Petraeus addressed the entire crew wanting the Sailors deployed out here to know just how valuable they are.
"Each and every person that wears our country's uniform is indeed, in a sense, 'An Army of One,' or a Sailor of one," said Petraeus. "Each of us has enormous intrinsic worth and can be the most important person in the life of a fellow Sailor or others with whom we work."
Petraeus expressed thanks and gratitude for the job Nimitz Sailors are doing in support of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
"I'm so thankful to be out here with over 4,000 great Americans who are engaged in important missions and working together to accomplish them," said Petraeus. "There's no greater source of energy than the 4,000 plus members of the crew and air wing that are on one of these great ships."
CVW-11 provides 30 percent of the close air support to coalition forces on the ground in Afghanistan. Since Nimitz arrived in 5th Fleet area of operations, Sept. 18, more than 1,450 sorties have been flown in support of OEF.
Nimitz CSG, commanded by Rear Adm. John W. Miller, is comprised of USS Nimitz, embarked Carrier Air Wing 11, embarked Destroyer Squadron 23, and the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Chosin. Ships assigned to DESRON 23 include the destroyers USS Pinckney, USS Sampson and the frigate USS Rentz.
Squadrons from CVW 11 include the "Black Aces" of Strike Fighter Squadron 41, the "Tophatters" of VFA 14, the "Warhawks" of VFA 97, the "Sidewinders" of VFA 86, the "Indians" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 6, the "Black Ravens" of Electronic Attack Squadron 135, the "Providers" of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 30 and the "Wallbangers" of Carrier Airborne Command and Control Squadron 117.
Helicopter detachments include the "Easy Riders" of Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light 37, the "Battle Cats" of HSL 43, the "Wolfpack" of HSL 45, the "Scorpions" of HSL 49 and the "Wildcards" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23. Also accompanying the Nimitz CSG are Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 and the USNS Bridge (T-AOE 10).
For more news from USS Nimitz (CVN 68), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn68/.