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Enterprise marks last deployment with visit to Athens

02. April 2012. | 08:08

Source: AMNA

It took exactly 49 years for the US Navy's most distinguished aircraft carrier to return to the warm and blue waters of Faliro Bay - off coastal southern Athens - on its 22nd and last deployment before a scheduled decommissioning.

It took exactly 49 years for the US Navy's most distinguished aircraft carrier to return to the warm and blue waters of Faliro Bay - off coastal southern Athens - on its 22nd and last deployment before a scheduled decommissioning.

The arrival of the Enterprise (CVN-65) -- the US Navy's "Big E" -- late in the morning on Wednesday, March 28, during a brilliant spring day, brought television crews and onlookers to the Faliro coastline to marvel at the gigantic warship, anchored a few kilometres off the coast but visible from practically every peak in the greater Athens area.

Beyond its strictly military duties, the celebrated carrier later in the evening switched to "diplomatic mode" as it hosted a major reception in its spacious hangar, decked out with massive US and Greek flags. The high-profile event brought on board practically all of Greece's top military and law enforcement leadership, including Greek Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, along with top US and EU member-states' officers in the country and the commander of the US Sixth Fleet.

"To visit this legendary ship has its symbolism," Avramopoulos said, while stressing the importance that Athens has attached to the recent statements of solidarity and friendship from the US leadership amid the current and serious economic crisis plaguing Greece.

While the civilian and military VIPs were boarding the vessel via a small flotilla of launches and private boats, many of its nearly 5,000 officers, sailors and Marines - including roughly 950 female service members - were boarding ferry boats for a short ride to the port of Piraeus for an eagerly expected shore leave.

"This is a unique opportunity for us to welcome our Greek guests and other foreign guests to the largest aircraft carrier in the world," Rear Adm. Ted Carter, the commander of the Enterprise carrier strike group, said later in the evening.

Carter, who had previously visited Greece and Piraeus as a junior officer (fighter pilot) aboard the USS Saratoga, emphasised that the Enterprise's visit is a symbol of cooperation and history between the two allies, the US and Greece.

The US warship is expected to sail through the Suez Canal in the coming period and then head for the Gulf and a passage through the Straits of Hormuz.

Shown the nearby strait between the Attica mainland and the island of Salamina (Salamis), and reminded of a milestone naval battle between the Greek city-states and the invading Persian fleet in the 5th century BC, Adm. Carter merely smiled and said "some things apparently never change". www.amna.gr

Besides the standard fare of the Acropolis and its surrounding Classical monuments in central Athens, planned excursions for the Enterprise's personnel extend as far off as Cape Sounion, on the southeastern tip of Attica prefecture, the Mycenae archaeological site in the northeastern Peloponnese and even the Delphi oracle archaeological site, a two-hour drive north of Athens.

According to the Enterprise's Public Affairs Officer, Lt.-Cmdr. Sarah Self-Kyler, sailors and Marines have been meticulously briefed on the "do's and don'ts" of shore leave in the greater Athens area, given that this will be the biggest disembarkation of US military personnel in the area in recent memory. "Actually, the thing that most of your young sailors want is the Internet," Self-Kyler said.

The Enterprise was accompanied by the USS Vicksburg, a cruiser.


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