NORFOLK, VA-Members of the U.S. Army Parachute Team's Command Staff and Media Relations Section attended the commissioning ceremony of the USS George H.W. Bush. The event took place November 10 at Norfolk Naval Station where the ship is docked. Thousands attended the pier side ceremony which included a 21-cannon salute and a U.S. Navy jet fly-over.
The weekend events and celebrations included a USS Bush (CVN 77) Gala, pre and post commissioning receptions and the commissioning ceremony. Over a thousand guests were in attendance.
During the ceremony, President George W. Bush said, "this ship is a fitting tribute to a generation of men with whom my dad was privileged to serve," commenting on his father's service as a World War II naval aviator. "She's also a tribute to a generation of American Soldiers, Sailors, and Coast Guardsmen and women and Airmen and Marines who have stepped forward to defend the United States of America."
Dignitaries and platform guests included the ship's namesake, former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara; his son, President George W. Bush and his wife Laura; Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine were also present.
The ship's sponsor, Dorothy Bush Koch gave the order to "man our ship and bring her to life." A scurry of shipmates rushed up the gangplanks to their respective positions, lining the flight deck amidst sirens and spinning radars. The ship is the 10th and final nuclear-powered Nimitz-class carrier to be commissioned by the Navy.
U.S.A.P.T. Commander Lt. Col Anthony Dill and Sergeant Major Michael Eitinear befriended the crew of the USS Bush during the George H.W. Bush Library rededication ceremony in 2008. The Army Parachute Team tandem jumped the former president onto the grounds of the library, surprising onlookers attending the rededication.
Both the USS Bush crew and the Army Parachute Team members have continued inter-service communication in support of the U.S. military. Members of the Parachute Team joining Dill and Eitinear for the commissioning ceremonies included Major James Bean, Executive Officer; Captain Michael Funderburk, Operations Officer; Cheryle Rivas, Media Relations; and Donna Dixon, Public Affairs Officer.
The U.S.A.P.T. has served as the Army's Ambassadors since the team's establishment in 1959. This year marks the team's 50th anniversary.