Editor’s Note: While most of us stateside were lighting sprinklers, grilling out and watching fireworks, USS George Washington Sailors were on watch protecting and defending the freedom we hold so dear. That didn’t keep them from the festivities though! Not only did they celebrate our nation’s birthday, but also their own!
By: Capt. Timothy Kuehhas
Commanding officer of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73)
Since the ship’s commissioning on July 4, 1992, USS George Washington has been home to thousands of Sailors. This year is especially important for the ship and crew as the “Spirit of Freedom” will celebrate this Independence Day making preparations for the upcoming Hull Swap with USS Ronald Reagan and the mid-life refueling and overhaul complex to follow.
George Washington first began to take shape when its keel was laid Aug. 25, 1986 at Newport News Shipbuilding Co. in Norfolk, Va. The ship cost $3.5 billion and took 6 years to construct. The carrier is the fourth U.S. Navy vessel to bear our first president’s namesake.
Like our first president, the crew’s success comes from the character of its Sailors and their achievements. Among the ship’s accomplishments, F/A 18 fighter jets from George Washington protected the skies of New York City, Sept. 12-15, after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, an event which inspired many of George Washington’s current Sailors to join the Navy. In 2011, George Washington was one of several ships participating in disaster relief after the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. The George Washington Strike Group provided humanitarian assistance and disaster relief during Operation Damayan to those affected by a catastrophic typhoon. The crew also achieved back-to-back Battle Efficiency Awards in 2013 and 2014. Whether participating in a major exercise or routine operations, the crew of George Washington is always prepared and engaged.
As George Washington departed Japan for the last time in May, I thought about all the connections the ship made within 7th fleet, as George Washington has also served as the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier since 2008. The ship’s Sailors have had the unique opportunity to live and work with our allies and partners in Japan, The Republic of Korea and Australia. These accomplishments and connections are nothing without giving recognition to the thousands of Sailors and civilians who designed, built, maintained, and upgraded the ship. The true “spirit of freedom” resides in those who live and work on this 97,000 ton, 1,092-foot long floating city. A strong supporting cast is needed to be able to perform at the level that we do; George Washington has housed some of the Navy’s finest Sailors and civilians who are now scattered across the globe.
“This crew will put a stamp on the ship that will last a long time,” said then Capt. Robert Nutwell, George Washington’s first commanding officer. “It’s a big responsibility… We want to do it right.” And I believe wholeheartedly that the George Washington cast and crew has done it right since our ship’s commissioning in 1992. We have been deployed around the world and around the clock and we continue to be ready.
As President George Washington’s home state, it is more than fitting for George Washington to return to Virginia for her mid-life refueling and overhaul complex later this year. About 40 percent of the crew will remain on George Washington as we make our way back to the states. The other 60 percent of my Sailors will cross decks and take Ronald Reagan back to Yokosuka and begin a new forward-deployed legacy.
This Independence Day I have a lot to be grateful for, because I am a proud member of the more than 5,000 Sailors who currently call USS George Washington home!