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Beaufort leaders visit Thunderbolts, Sidewinders

By Cpl. John Jackson | | March 15, 2007

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ABOARD THE USS ENTERPRISE – A group of 12 Beaufort County and City Councilmen, local civic and business leaders boarded the USS Enterprise March 8 and 9, to see Marines and sailors from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 and Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 86 train while at sea.

The main purpose of the visit was to show Beaufort leaders how the training accomplished at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort is put to use at sea. The group also received a comprehensive tour of the ship to get a better understanding of how a carrier strike group supports warfighters on land.

“The Field Carrier Landing Practices we do in Beaufort are so essential,” said Lt. Col. Michael Orr, the Thunderbolts commanding officer. “The training at the Air Station gives us the skills to be able to come to the ship and complete our mission safely.”

While visiting the carrier, the officials were able to see the importance of the training first-hand. The visitors not only saw flight operations being conducted while touring Enterprise’s primary flight control, but they were able to step onto the flight deck of the carrier and witness up-close and personal the expertise required to land aboard a carrier.

“It is such a precise and demanding flying environment,” Orr said, “and I think they were able to see that by coming here and watching aircraft launch and recover.”

Visiting the carrier allowed the group not only to see what the Marines and sailors from Beaufort do aboard the ship, but also gave the leaders an opportunity to see how a Navy aircraft carrier operates while at sea.

“The young men and women on this ship are obviously committed to what they’re doing,” said retired Army Brig. Gen. Jim Shufelt, a Beaufort Military Affairs Committee member. “All of the young people here on this great ship are working together to complete the mission.” 

When the officials return home, they will have a chance to share their experiences with their fellow Beaufort citizens.

“The education we’ve received helps us to inform the people of Beaufort,” said Beaufort Mayor Bill Rauch. “We will be able to tell them what an outstanding job our Marines and sailors are doing.”

Even though the group’s visit was only about 24 hours, the unique opportunity to land and take off from the carrier and get a behind-the-scenes look at carrier operations was an experience the group will never forget, according to Rauch.

“The young men and women are doing a great job here,” Rauch said. “I’m really glad that we were able to come learn more about what our Marines and sailors do while they are deployed on the USS Enterprise.”

Not only was the group grateful for the visit, the Thunderbolts and Sidewinders were happy to have the community leaders on board.

“I’m really glad we had a chance to provide an opportunity to showcase the hard work of the Marine and sailors,” Orr said. “The thing that I’m most proud of is just the ability to show our local leadership how hard (the Marines and sailors) work, how much they do and how much they add to the combat power of the ship.”

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