En route home, Enterprise group enjoys a visit to Naples
NAPLES, Italy — The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg ended a four-day port visit here Thursday during their final few weeks of a Persian Gulf deployment.
This is the first aircraft carrier port visit to Naples since the USS George Washington’s stop in October 2002.
The Enterprise and its air wing deployed from Norfolk, Va., on Aug. 29 and are expected to return home within the next month after a short port visit in Spain.
Deploying with the Enterprise as part of its 10-ship, 7,100-sailor, carrier strike group are two cruisers — including Gettysburg — five destroyers, one frigate and a supply ship.
Sailors took the time in port to tour Naples, and some even visited Rome.
“It’s great,” said Seaman Juan Figueroa of the Enterprise, who will be promoted to petty officer third class on Monday. “I’ve seen Rome in the movies, but going there and visiting, you see a lot of great things.”
Figueroa said he’s been sending digital photos to his wife and family in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“They are impressed,” he said. “This is like a story that you can tell your children.”
Another Enterprise sailor, Petty Officer 1st Class Eugenia Bell, said she also loved Rome, but is ready to get home to see her family. This is her “first and last” deployment, the 17-year-Navy veteran said. “So far it’s been fun.”
Bell said she even enjoyed the port visits in the Middle East, especially shopping in Dubai.
Petty Officer 1st Class Geovarrie Lopez of the Gettysburg enjoyed the Naples port visit, but it wasn’t his first time here. He was last in Naples during summer 1994 while stationed aboard the USS Simon Lake based at La Maddalena, Italy.
Lopez said he’ll most remember going through the Suez Canal.
During the ship’s nearly four-month tour in the Middle East, Enterprise aircraft struck Iraqi targets in November and early January.
“It’s nice to know we were actually helping and not just making circles,” Bell said. This gave the crew a purpose, which she could see in her 48-sailor division. “The best thing is that I’ve never seen them pull together like this.”
In January the carrier took part in the weeklong exercise Sea Saber, a multinational exercise designed to fight weapons of mass destruction trafficking in the Persian Gulf.
Earlier this month two F-14 Tomcats struck each other in flight over the Red Sea. There were no injuries and both aircraft landed back on the ship.
The Enterprise will be relieved in the Persian Gulf by the 7,600-sailor George Washington carrier strike group, which deployed from Norfolk on Jan. 20.