Tours aboard USS Rushmore Catapult San Diego’s Annual Fleet Week Festival
San Diego, CA - The 10th annual Fleet Week Festival at San Diego kicked off on Sept. 16, with USS Rushmore (LSD 47) and USS Princeton (CG 59) welcoming the public onboard for tours in downtown San Diego.
The two ships moored to Broadway Pier were surrounded by over 40 U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy boat groups, and U.S. Coast Guard static displays.
"I’ve never been on a Navy ship before," said Courtney Dillard, a resident of San Diego. “We all know there is a Navy presence here, but I didn’t know what a ship like USS Rushmore entailed and what everyone did."
The people of San Diego had the opportunity to see USS Rushmore up close. During the weekend, USS Rushmore offered public tours and hosted around 3,500 visitors.
"This was a fantastic opportunity to really see what our nation’s military is doing, and for the public to meet the people who defend us every day. I am so proud of our country and so grateful for this experience to personally meet Sailors in our nation’s Navy,” Dilliard said. "They're all very knowledgeable about their jobs and were all just very nice to talk to."
Ship tourists were able to handle some of the military gear and learned about Navy life at sea. USS Rushmore had a U.S. Marine Corps AH-1 Cobra on static display, as well as damage control equipment, small arms weapons, and first aid equipment. Sailors took visitors on a tour around the flight deck, boat deck, and well deck, and then up to the bridge.
"Just talking with the visitors about themselves was my favorite part of the tour," said Gunner’s Mate Seaman Matthew Barnett. “I met some men who had been on a battleship decades ago, and it was hard not to stand aside from my tour station so I could learn more about them and what they have done.”
Many of USS Rushmore’s crew felt similar. “I really had a good time," said Naval Counselor First Class Anita Stark. "It's inspiring that so many people came out to learn about what we do. When people come out and support us like this, it feels good. It makes me glad I do what I do."
San Diego residents commented on the importance of Fleet Week and the overall demeanor and professionalism of the Sailors they'd encountered.
"I am proud of our country and I am proud of our country’s military," said Ryan Williamson, a former U.S. Army sergeant and current resident of San Diego. "It gives me great confidence in today’s Navy after seeing and meeting so many Sailors walking around in their clean and pressed white uniforms, all of them so respectful and knowledgeable. I had a great experience aboard USS Rushmore."
Fleet Week activities allow U.S. Sailors and Coast Guard personnel to experience the local community and to promote awareness of the maritime forces.
A new addition this year was the Enlisted Speaker Series. USS Rushmore featured three Sailors, Bowswain’s Mate Second Class Roger Magana, Hull Technician First Class Tyler Rolstad, and Gunner’s Mate First Class Edwin Holland. The chosen Sailors spoke in front of a crowd for a thirty-minute session about themselves and their experience in the Navy.
“I talked about myself, why joined the Navy, and why it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. They gave me a thirty-minute block, and when I wasn’t sure what to say, I asked if there were any questions,” said Magana.
“There were so many. It made the thirty minutes fly by. The public was so receptive to what I was saying, and by the end of it, they had to cut it off. I stayed around for a long time after to talk to more people and answer more questions,” he said.
The Enlisted Speaker Series allowed Sailors to personally reach and convey to the public who they were and what they do in the Navy. They enhanced the mission of Fleet Week by showing the public why they should honor and celebrate the men and women of the military.
"It’s good to see the Navy reaching out to the public. It’s important for us to see that. I’ve lived here for five years and I’ve never been onboard a Navy ship. Now I know what I’m seeing everyday from the window of my apartment downtown," said Dilliard.
San Diego’s Fleet Week Festival goes until Oct. 2, and it will feature other events honoring the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S Coast Guard. Go to http://www.fleetweeksandiego.org/
for more information.