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NNS020830-02 Former President Bush Visits HST

8/30/2002 8:36:00 AM

By Journalist 1st Class Joseph Gunder, USS Harry S. Truman Public Affairs

ABOARD USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Distinguished visitors on carriers come and go. But it was a bit of a surprise to have the 41st President of the United States walking about on this ship.

Former President George Herbert Walker Bush came aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Aug. 27 and 28 to meet Sailors of the ship and Commander, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) Three while they were busy entering the Inter-Deployment Training Cycle (IDTC) prior to deployment.

Among the guests that arrived with the former President were retired Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jay L. Johnson and Retired Capt. John D. Stufflebeem, father of Commander, Carrier Group 2, Rear Adm. John D. Stufflebeem.

Bush toured various ship spaces, but what really impressed this former naval aviator the most was what he witnessed on the flight deck during night ops.

"What I saw on the flight deck was teamwork, in the dark, of the men and pilots and everyone else. It was unbelievable. The ship has a soul ... a spirit."

Bush continued, "The President, number 43, absolutely understands the importance of a carrier, the teamwork of a carrier, and the importance of a carrier winning the war we are engaged in."

Despite the changes since Bush's time as a naval aviator during World War II, some things don't change. "You still need precision strikes, you need to carpet certain areas with munitions."

Some things do change. One of the biggest in recent years and more so since 9/11, was a change in attitude towards men and women in the Armed Forces.

"After 9/11 there was no question about the respect given for those who serve. I think that's a good thing," Bush said.

Bush took time out of his busy schedule to speak to the crew and airwing on the drizzly flight deck, and as a bonus, he also reenlisted 17 Sailors back into the Navy.

"I just want to congratulate all of you," Bush said to the 17. "I expect you will be in harm's way. But you will have fantastic support. Not just from the people running the Navy, but also from the White House and the President."

Among them was Damage Controlman 2nd Class (AW) James Christian, who really enjoyed the chance to be sworn back in by Bush. "It's a one-time experience. I'll remember this for a long time," Christian said.

But for just-reenlisted Aviation Storekeeper 1st Class (SW/AW) Michael Booth, this was a two-time experience.

"This is the second time he reenlisted me. The first time was two years ago on the Truman," Booth said. "I had the chance to talk to him on the mess decks last night and he remembered that occasion."

The USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Battle Group will soon enter the largest phase of its workup cycle, which will include a Composite Training Exercise, Final Exam Period and a Joint Task Force Exercise.

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