Saturday, December 10, 2011

Welcome home Sailors of the "USS George HW Bush"!

Today, nearly 6,000 members of the United States Navy who have been deployed on the USS George H W Bush for the past seven months have come to their home port in Norfolk, Virginia.

Hampton Roads Pilot Online's Mike Hixenbaugh reports:
Nearly 6,000 sailors returned home to Norfolk Naval Station today to cheers and hugs after a seven-month deployment to the Middle East. People began gathering pierside before 6 a.m., hours ahead of the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush's arrival. "I thought if we came out here, time would go by faster," said Julie Martin as she waited for her husband. People jumped and cheered as the ship appeared at the horizon. Pam Moore wiped a tear from her eyes. Moore and her family had flown in from Texas to welcome her son home. "I'm so proud of him." Patriotic music blared as the ship approached. Petty Officer Derrick Chavez was among the first sailors off the ship. He smiled as he hugged his wife and held his 6-month-old daughter for the first time."I'm speechless," he said. Loved ones hoisted each other on their shoulders and waved signs as the sailors filed onto the pier. Airman Robert Frary found his girlfriend and immediately dropped to a knee and held out a ring. She jumped into his arms and screamed, "yes!" "We've got a lot to celebrate," he said. The arrivals include four ships as part of the group: the aircraft carrier Bush, the guided-missile destroyers Truxtun and Mitscher and the cruiser Anzio. They left Hampton Roads in May. The deployment was the first for the Bush, skippered by Capt. Brian Luther. It also marked the first time that a woman, Rear Adm. Nora Tyson, commanded a carrier strike group. The ships and nine squadrons of aircraft that make up Carrier Air Wing Eight supported U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and conducted security operations in the Mediterranean and Arabian seas. The air wing returned home earlier this week.
The Navy made LiveStream available through several outlets, including Facebook so that family and friends who could not attend the homecoming in person could still "be there" sort of. Pre-recorded earlier today:
Watch live streaming video from usnavy at
Scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. EST and run until 1 p.m. with chat options in LiveStream, Facebook and Twitter, it promised to be a fully interactive experience, but some people voiced great disappointment in the execution.

I spent hours last night tweeting and sending the link to family and friends and slept like a child on Christmas Eve.

I woke early and paced, waiting until it was time to view the feed. I expected a few glitches and yet, knowing the technology that is available to our Navy, I also expected state-of-the art video that I hoped would blow my mind.

Instead, I found a black screen for 19 minutes, a day-old slide show for 18 minutes and about 3 seconds of live feed that showed the ship already moored, sailors standing at attention in their dress blues around the ship. I'd missed the grandeur of watching the tugboat help maneuver the massive ship to port.

I maintained vigilance and waited three hours to see if I might see my own sailor. I did see small clips of happy reunions. Meanwhile I tried to engage in the three chats available but mostly found others complaining about the LiveStream feed.

I have to agree: a military as mighty as ours, a Navy capable of creating remote control drones and a country capable of sending manned spacecraft to the moon and the International Space Station should be able to provide a fully functional video on LiveStream, right?

There were some people who expressed the same opinion I had - that of gratitude. We were grateful to know that the Navy cared enough about the sailors' families and friends to offer an option to flying or driving to Norfolk or waiting for the news releases. Thank you!

Others voiced frustration that the feed wasn't better. I was frustrated, too. One thing the feed did provide was enough audio for me to recognize when disembarkation had begun and when it was almost over. That afforded me with a window in which to call my sailor, who was still working on board the ship. We had a brief moment for me to say, "Welcome home!"

Despite the glitches and the comments over how skillful the camera person was (or wasn't) and despite the moments of blackout and the 15-minute early timeout, I have to say Bravo Zulu to those who made the effort to make the LiveStream possible.Hopefully skill and technology will merge for the next homecoming.