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Chairman’s USO Tour Takes to Sea Aboard Aircraft Carrier Operating in Gulf

USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT, Persian Gulf, Dec. 23, 2017 — The Chairman’s 2017 USO Holiday Tour left al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates and flew 20 minutes to sovereign U.S. soil in the form of the 4.5-acre flight deck of this Nimitz-class aircraft carrier today.

Navy and Marine Corps aircraft use this big-deck carrier to take the fight to America’s enemies and to maintain American presence in tough waters. The ship left its home port of San Diego in October. The crew has already missed Thanksgiving with their families and will be launching operations over Christmas, so Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thought it was important to bring the show to the Roosevelt.

The chairman’s senior enlisted advisor -- Army Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Troxell -- told the crew that they are living up to the “Big Stick” motto of the vessel’s namesake. “Any time somebody wants to get froggy out on the water, we just send up a carrier strike group, do a little freedom of navigation operation and show them who the real maritime kings of the world are,” he said at the start of the show on the hangar deck.

In an interview after the USO show, Troxell said the Roosevelt and the rest of Carrier Strike Group 9 are an integral part of the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. “The aircraft that are flying off of this carrier … every day are going to Syria and they are going to Iraq and they are putting the hammer on [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria],” the sergeant major said. “Because of their efforts, we have this threat on the run.”

And it requires operations around the clock and around the calendar, he said. The enemy doesn’t take Christmas off, Troxell noted, and service members need to be ready, even on holidays, to defend the United States, its interests and its allies.

American Might

The Roosevelt epitomizes the reality of American might. The nuclear-powered ship is 1,092 feet long and 20 stories tall. Its flight deck is 252 feet wide. The ship carries more than 70 aircraft, from F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and MH-60R/S Seahawk helicopters to E/A-18 Growlers and the old C-2 Greyhounds. And it moves along at about 35 miles per hour.

The sergeant major got a chance to speak to members of the crew and said morale is high. “They understand why they are here,” he said. “They understand what the mission is.”

The morale is also high “probably because they have a port visit coming up in Dubai, and they are going to get a little well-deserved liberty they need after being out here for several months,” the SEAC said with a smile.

He said the Roosevelt is a huge American advantage, but the crew is what makes it work and he is impressed with “how well-trained, how well-educated and how focused they are. These petty officers out here are clearly the greatest competitive advantage we have in the waters, because of them being empowered by the officers of this vessel.”

Troxell noted that thousands of service members will be away from families doing the nation’s work on Christmas and New Year’s. The Chairman’s Holiday USO Tour is one effort to let them know that America cares about them, he said. “It is truly an honor for me to be part of this USO tour, along with General Dunford … and be over here on the holidays. Nothing is more important to us than spending time with the troops on the Christmas holidays.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDODNews)