New Navy ship named after Bush 41

November 13, 2010 5:52:46 AM PST
Houston is far from most Navy towns, but this week as we celebrate Veterans Day, we're getting an In Focus look at the biggest tribute to our city's most well known war hero, and the Navy's newest aircraft carrier, the USS George H.W. Bush. You'd have a tough time showing most people a more impressive acre than the USS George H.W. Bush anywhere on Earth.

"I tell you what, it's an awesome piece of machinery," USS 41 Sailor David Clayboss said.

It's the newest U.S. Navy aircraft carrier and home to thousands of sailors and nearly 100 war planes. And after seven years of work, it's finally ready to deploy to a warzone for the first time.

It's named for Houston native, former President George H.W. Bush, who is loved out on the ship even more than he is at home.

"He's a rock star when it comes to this ship," Commanding Officer Capt. Skip Miller said.

On board, 4,500 men and women eat, sleep and stay for six months at a time.

We're told there's about $2.2 million worth of groceries on board. Nearly 100 chefs cook more than 15,000 meals a day, and each plate is no more than $3.30 worth of food.

Officers live two to a room, and enlisted sailors get a lot less space.

Living on board is pretty tight quarters. They have a rack, or a bed, and a drawer underneath to store six months worth of clothes.

They're up with the sun, and a typical shift is 12 hours long.

"We make a lot of coffee," Houston sailor Justin Lambert said.

But the thing that makes the ship unique is the connection with the man it's named for.

"That's the man," Command Master Chief John Heck said.

It's not just his time as president that makes him so interesting out there; Bush 41 had a remarkable Navy career himself.

President Bush enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and flew from the aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto during World War II.

On board the new carrier, sailors can see video of Bush being plucked from the Pacific Ocean after he was shot down in 1944.

"He's actually really funny," Lambert said.

Lambert is a 22-year-old air traffic controller who, a few months ago, was surprised to turn around in his dark office and see the ex-president watching him work in the middle of the night.

"I've met him a few times. I got pictures of him," Lambert said. "The last time I went home, my mom's got a huge picture of him right in our kitchen, me and him shaking hands."

Lambert's story is by no means unique.

Miller says during Bush's two visits in the last two years, the former president's met hundreds of sailors, showing uncharacteristic energy for an 86-year-old man.

"A true hero, and he just is so warm -- makes you feel very, very comfortable, and our sailors just embrace him," Miller said. "We're very honored to wear his name."

The ship is set to deploy, most likely towards Afghanistan, just after the first of the year.

When the USS George H.W. Bush heads into the war zone, it will not sail the alone. A U.S. Navy carrier strike group normally includes four guided missile cruisers, destroyers and frigates, a support ship and an attack submarine.


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