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Aircraft in the background, Seaman Belony Omeus outruns Seaman Recruit David Phillips for a touchdown on the USS Kitty Hawk during a steel-beach picnic as the Yokosuka, Japan-based aircraft carrier is underway in the northern Persian Gulf.

Aircraft in the background, Seaman Belony Omeus outruns Seaman Recruit David Phillips for a touchdown on the USS Kitty Hawk during a steel-beach picnic as the Yokosuka, Japan-based aircraft carrier is underway in the northern Persian Gulf. (Kendra Helmer / S&S)

Aircraft in the background, Seaman Belony Omeus outruns Seaman Recruit David Phillips for a touchdown on the USS Kitty Hawk during a steel-beach picnic as the Yokosuka, Japan-based aircraft carrier is underway in the northern Persian Gulf.

Aircraft in the background, Seaman Belony Omeus outruns Seaman Recruit David Phillips for a touchdown on the USS Kitty Hawk during a steel-beach picnic as the Yokosuka, Japan-based aircraft carrier is underway in the northern Persian Gulf. (Kendra Helmer / S&S)

Airman Daniel Cortes break-dances Saturday on the USS Kitty Hawk during a steel-beach picnic in the Persian Gulf.

Airman Daniel Cortes break-dances Saturday on the USS Kitty Hawk during a steel-beach picnic in the Persian Gulf. (Kendra Helmer / S&S)

Seaman Charles Curtis bellows death metal/hard core music into a microphone on the USS Kitty Hawk during a steel-beach picnic Saturday in the Persian Gulf. After less than 10 minutes, the band, Blood Clot, was pulled off stage because some sailors were slamdancing.

Seaman Charles Curtis bellows death metal/hard core music into a microphone on the USS Kitty Hawk during a steel-beach picnic Saturday in the Persian Gulf. After less than 10 minutes, the band, Blood Clot, was pulled off stage because some sailors were slamdancing. (Kendra Helmer / S&S)

The nearly 5,500 troops aboard the USS Kitty Hawk swarmed around the flight deck Saturday during a steel-beach picnic to mark 45 days at sea.

The nearly 5,500 troops aboard the USS Kitty Hawk swarmed around the flight deck Saturday during a steel-beach picnic to mark 45 days at sea. (Kendra Helmer / S&S)

Mmmmm ... beer. Sailors on the USS Kitty Hawk were treated to a steel-beach picnic and two beers each Saturday in the Persian Gulf to mark 45 days underway. Budweiser, Bud Lite, Miller Lite, MGD and Tiger were kept ice cold in this F-14 engine canister.

Mmmmm ... beer. Sailors on the USS Kitty Hawk were treated to a steel-beach picnic and two beers each Saturday in the Persian Gulf to mark 45 days underway. Budweiser, Bud Lite, Miller Lite, MGD and Tiger were kept ice cold in this F-14 engine canister. (Kendra Helmer / S&S)

ABOARD THE USS KITTY HAWK — Instead of aircraft launching off the flight deck Saturday, sailors on the USS Kitty Hawk drove golf balls into the Persian Gulf.

Others break-danced or played hacky sack as a DJ spun tunes. One group pumped iron in a bench-press competition.

Rather than lining up in uniforms for chow, sailors in civvies piled plates with barbecued food.

And, precious blue tickets in hand, they shifted impatiently near an F-14 engine canister. Its contents: ice cold beer, two for each of the nearly 5,500 troops.

Following Navy tradition, the Kitty Hawk crew was treated to a steel-beach picnic to mark 45 days under way.

“For one day out of the whole time we’ve been under way, it feels like home,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class John Gutierrez. “What a vibe. I didn’t expect this.”

Many sailors, including Gutierrez, hadn’t been to a steel-beach picnic; the last one on this aircraft carrier, the Navy’s oldest active ship, was November 2001 during Operation Enduring Freedom. Most deployments have a port visit before the 45-day mark.

Since leaving Yokosuka, Japan, on Jan. 20, these troops have seen only blue water. But it was a vivid scene Saturday.

One of the more colorful characters was Petty Officer 3rd Class Chad Shelton, sporting a Dr. Seuss-like red, blue and yellow hat. He modified it by attaching cupholders — one for each beer.

“We prepare for these things,” said Shelton, 22, plunking down his skateboard.

Several were content to chill out, sunning themselves in fold-up chairs during a rare break from work.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Analaura Mendoza, smiling broadly, danced close to Petty Officer 2nd Class Jose Silva, as others sang along in Spanish to a merengue song.

Three bands took the stage throughout the day, singing punk and rock tunes. The final band, Blood Clot, got quite a reaction with its death metal/hardcore act.

“This is war-motivation music,” said one sailor as he started slam dancing with about 10 others.

Sailors said they really needed to vent some steam.

“Things have been intense,” said the ship’s Command Master Chief Marvin Dublin. “We needed a break, a day to relax.”

Not everyone ended the day with a sunburn. Some aircraft crews had to remain on alert. Four pilots and four crewmen with the Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 14 popped up on deck to grab food but volunteered to stay sober.

“I gave it up for Lent, anyway,” said Cmdr. Mark Deardurff.

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