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JFK Rolls Out Red Carpet for South American Submariners

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050409-03
Release Date: 4/9/2005 9:30:00 PM

By Journalist 3rd Class (SW)Timothy Cox, USS John F. Kennedy Public Affairs

NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- The crew aboard USS John F. Kennedy (JFK) (CV 67) laid out the welcome mat and extended a warm "bienvenido" to a group of Sailors from both the Peruvian and Colombian navies April 7.

Sailors stationed aboard ARC Pijao (SS-28), a conventionally-powered submarine in the Colombian fleet, and the Peruvian submarine BAP Antofagasta (SS-32) were treated to a tour of the Mayport, Fla.-based aircraft carrier.

One of Kennedy's tour guides on hand for the special visit, Aviation Support Equipment Technician 2nd Class (AW/SW) Julian Grajales-Osorio, of Kennedy's aviation intermediate maintenance department, said he was eager to orient the South American sailors with how the U.S. Navy conducts business at sea.

Grajales-Osorio, who pulled double duty for the day, acting not only as a tour guide but also as a translator, once served in the Colombian navy from the mid-to-late '90s and has a few former shipmates currently serving aboard Pijao.

"[Kennedy] is a huge animal, and I'm proud and excited to show these guys the ship," said Grajales-Osorio, who hails from Pereira, Colombia. "They've never seen something this size. Most of the ships in the Colombian navy are smaller than our frigates."

The Colombian and Peruvian submarines are pierside in the basin at Naval Station Mayport to participate in an anti-submarine training exercise called "Smart Search." Downtime in the exercise provided the perfect occasion for sailors from both foreign navies to step aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier for the first time in their careers.

"The tour of JFK was a great professional and personal opportunity," said Pijao's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Jimmy Yusti. "This experience will most certainly enrich our naval culture."

For the remainder of Pijao's crew, the tour proved nearly overwhelming, as many were astounded by the size of the ship and the number of crew members required to carry out the 80,000-ton carrier's multipronged mission.

"I never thought I'd ever be given the chance to see a carrier up close," said Colombian sailor, Sea Propulsion Machinist 2nd Class Enrique Romero, who went through basic training with Grajales-Osorio nearly a decade ago. "I am very impressed with the size and firepower of this great ship."

Radio Operator 2nd Class Wilmer Valencia felt similarly and said he was surprised to learn that Kennedy is approaching its fourth decade on active duty.

"The ship is in good condition for being around for so long," said Valencia, who is stationed aboard Pijao. "I'm impressed with the total commitment of the crew and of course the size of everything compared to a submarine."

The tour kicked off with a visit to JFK Commanding Officer Capt. Dennis FitzPatrick's in-port cabin, which was designed and decorated by former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. There, FitzPatrick welcomed the foreign navies aboard and provided the special visitors with a brief history of the storied carrier and handed out a few Kennedy keepsakes. The tour was conducted by select Kennedy Sailors and included the ship's forecastle, flight deck, navigation bridge, engineering and two massive hangar bays.

"I'm so pleased to have had the opportunity to participate in the tour," said Grajales-Osorio, who admitted to feeling a bit nostalgic as he watched his former shipmates file off JFK's brow. "I never thought I'd ever see these guys here."

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