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NAPLES, Italy — In the second aircraft carrier visit to Naples this month, sailors are packing local and base businesses.

On its cruise home to Norfolk, Va., the USS George Washington arrived Wednesday for a port call. After spending nearly five months in the Persian Gulf, several of the 5,000 sailors said all they wanted to do was relax rather than run around seeing the sites.

Dozens of sailors packed the Capodichino base bar Thursday afternoon.

“We got stressed out,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Alex Luzon. “It was good to get to Italy with the cool weather,” he said. Though temperatures here are in the 90s, he said it beats launching and recovering aircraft in the triple-digit temperatures of the Gulf.

The carrier and Carrier Air Wing 7 have flown more than 7,200 sorties since leaving Norfolk on Jan. 20. For Operation Iraqi Freedom, it launched more than 1,500 sorties, dropping about 82 tons of ordnance in support of ground troops in Iraq, said Lt. John E. Gay, ship spokesman.

“The sentiment we got from the ground troops was just the fact that aircraft came from the area seemed to deter any uprising,” Gay said.

The carrier was in the Gulf from Feb. 17 through July 5. Sailors also had a port visit to Souda Bay, Crete, and three visits to Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates.

At one point, sailors spent 52 days at sea. Normally after 45 straight days at sea with no port call, sailors are treated to a steel-beach picnic — a barbecue held on the flight deck — and two beers apiece. Several sailors grumbled that they didn’t get a beer day.

“Our morale is so low, the only thing we want to do is drink,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class James Moore, a fire controlman.

The decision whether to have a beer day was at the discretion of the commanding officer, Capt. Martin Erdossy, Gay said.

“Quite frankly, we couldn’t take the day off,” Gay said.

While several sailors relaxed at the bar, scores of others shopped downtown and on base and traveled to Rome and Pompeii.

“It’s been a great deployment,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charles Gunter, a radio officer, as he shopped at the Navy Exchange. “[The port visit] is like coming home.”

Gunter previously was stationed in Naples. He has caught up with friends and bought leather purses for his wife and Italian gifts for his 5-year-old son, who was born here.

“Now I’m broke,” he said, smiling.

Also in port in Naples is the USS Roosevelt, a Mayport, Fla.-based destroyer that isn’t part of the Washington strike group.


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