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USS CARL VINSON, At Sea - Former President Jimmy Carter, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and former Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton visited the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Feb. 22 along with more than 200 members of Mr. Carter's foundation, The Carter Center.
Upon arriving, the Carters, Dalton and others joined Deputy Commander, 3rd Fleet Rear Adm. John Jolliffe, commander, Carrier Strike Group 1 Rear Adm. David Steindl and Carl Vinson's Commanding Officer, Capt. Kent Whalen in the commanding officer's inport cabin where Mr. Carter discussed his memories of the ship's namesake, U.S. Rep. Carl Vinson.
"Congressman Carl Vinson was from near my home," Carter said. "He was a Georgian congressman and he was probably the most powerful congressman that ever served, who loved the Navy. He dedicated his life of 50 years in Congress to promoting the strength and the quality of the Navy."
After meeting Carl Vinson's chain of command, Mr. and Mrs. Carter, Dalton and the Carter Center guests of honor were officially welcomed aboard in the ship's hangar bay by Whalen and Jolliffe.
Jolliffe thanked President Carter and the Carter Center members and supporters for honoring Carl Vinson with their visit and that he was eager for them to meet members of Carl Vinson's crew during the upcoming tour.
"When you talk with the Sailors during your tour, it will be clear that they are very proud of what they do and with good reason," Jolliffe said. "These Sailors are part of the best-educated and the most highly-trained Navy in the history of the United States." "You are going to meet the finest men and women our country has to offer," Dalton added. "These Sailors are all volunteers. They are here because they want to serve you and they want to defend this nation."
As Mr. and Mrs. Carter and the Carter Center supporters toured Vinson, crew members explained their areas of responsibility. The ship's flight deck, navigation bridge, mess decks, enlisted berthing and forecastle were some of the spaces highlighted. Each stop provided the former president and the former secretary of the Navy a chance to interact with Carl Vinson Sailors firsthand.
Dalton, who said his tenure as SECNAV were the best five-and-a-half years of his life, was very impressed after talking with Sailors during the group's tour of the carrier.
"This is an outstanding ship. Carl Vinson, the individual, is someone who spoke at my graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy when I graduated in 1964, so I've known about Carl Vinson for a long time," Dalton explained. "And I've followed the ship. The very first aircraft carrier I toured when I was secretary of the Navy was Carl Vinson. My exposure to the Sailors aboard this ship today has done nothing but enhance that reputation. I'm awfully proud of the men and women that are serving in the United States Navy today and the sacrifices they make on behalf of the American people. I'm really proud of every Sailor aboard this ship and every Sailor in the United States Navy."
For Mr. Carter, who at one time wanted to make the Navy a career and worked for Capt. Hyman G. Rickover on the Navy's nuclear submarine program, the time spent with the ship's crew also made the strongest impression.
"I've been on a lot of ships in my life," Carter said. "I've served on some ships and also visited them since I left the White House, but I think the Carl Vinson has a reputation of great integrity and great competence. You've won all kinds of awards in past years and represent a wonderful namesake. I believe the Carl Vinson with its [crew] onboard are a credit not only to the Navy, but to the United States of America." The Carter Center, founded by Mr. and Mrs. Carter and in partnership with Emory College, has been committed to advancing human rights and alleviating unnecessary human suffering since 1982 and has helped those in need in more than 70 countries.