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  *   I haven't seen my son Jon since he sailed on the US aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson last November.   Jon, a 2008 Hampton Dumont graduate, enlisted in the Navy in May 2010, he graduated from the Great Lakes Naval Station in North Chicago last July.  In September he joined the crew of the USS Carl Vinson based out of San Diego.  The Carl Vinson is one of the Navy's oldest aircraft carriers.  It has a crew of around 5600.  It's over three football fields long.  It's the home to seven fixed wing air squadrons and one helicopter squadron, over 90 aircraft.  The Vinson is a Nimitz class nuclear aircraft carrier.  Since it sailed last November 30th from San Diego the carrier has made port stops in Busan South Korea, Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, Dubai, Manilla in the Philippines and Hong Kong.  Most notably, on Monday morning May 2nd the body of Osama bin Laden was flown to the USS Carl Vinson where it was washed and wrapped appropriately in cloth and buried at sea in the Arabian Sea.   To date Jon has never talked about the historic event.   Also in the crew of the Carl Vinson is Justin Hollman and Nate Dirkson both of Hampton.  
   *   When Jon enlisted he talked about the possibility of a tiger cruise.   A tiger cruise is a cruise for families and friends of a sailor to join them on the homeward voyage (for the Vinson it's usually from Hawaii to San Diego).    Around the first of the year he said the Navy was considering a tiger cruise when they came through Hawaii.  In March he sent me an application to join the ship on their homeward voyage.  A month ago I was approved for the tiger cruise that will leave Hawaii later this week.   There will be somewhere between 800 and 1000 tigers sailing home with the USS Carl Vinson.  Yes I am excited.   I have been on numerous cruises but this one will be very different and very special.   Join me here on this week for updates, pictures, and interviews of my tiger cruise onboard the USS Carl Vinson.    Craig Donnelly

Associated Press- PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii ó The aircraft carrier that buried Osama bin Laden's body at sea arrived in Hawaii on Tuesday, making its first stop on U.S. soil since its deployment to the Middle East six months ago.

More than 100 family and friends greeted sailors at the pier as the ship stopped in Pearl Harbor for a port visit before making its way home to San Diego.

The USS Carl Vinson was in the North Arabian Sea last month when it received a Navy SEAL team carrying the body of the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Pentagon officials speaking about the burial have said that bin Laden's body was placed in a weighted bag on the carrier and that an officer made religious remarks before the remains were put on a board and tipped into the sea.

The massive carrier and its 5,500 sailors, pilots and crew were returning home from their deployment to the Middle East and Asia that began Nov. 30. It spent 171 of 191 days at sea and sailed more than 52,340 nautical miles.

The Vinson ó named after the Georgia congressman who died in 1981 ó serves as the flagship for Carrier Strike Group 1 led by Rear Adm. Samuel Perez.

It conducted exercises with South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Britain, France and Australia in addition to responding to two piracy attempts on civilian vessels.

The carrier hosted numerous visitors from Philippines President Philippines Beningo Aquino III to the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.


The USS Carl Vinson arrived in Pearl Harbor just after 8:00 a.m. Tuesday, local Hawaii time. The Vinson's flight deck was ringed with uniformed sailors in their dress whites. They didn't stay out long as a light rain started to fall. The flight deck was full of planes. The USS Arizona Visitor Center was packed with people, many of them family of Vinson sailors. Word has it that there will be nearly one thousand tiger cruisers sailing aboard the Vinson on its homeward voyage from Hawaii to its home port of San Diego. I was able to hook up with my son Jon around 1:00 p.m. Tuesday. We spent the day together with family and other tiger cruise families who are here to join their sailors. Today (Wednesday) we plan to do some sightseeing. Tomorrow night we board the Carl Vinson for the cruise home. As far as Osama bin Laden, the sailors of the Vinson will not discuss his reported burial at sea. I will respect their wishes and will not address the issue in my reports as I sail home with the USS Carl Vinson.        Aloha!!!  Craig Donnelly





Thursday, June 9th, 2011


Only a few more hours until I board the USS Carl Vinson for its homeward journey to San Diego.  It has been great to see my son Jon. The last time Kathy and I saw him was a week before he sailed November 30th, 2010.

Packing for a tiger cruise is so much different than for a KLMJ Cruise. Everyone gets one collapsible bag to hold everything. Our personal items need to fit under our bunk. Jon says itís called a rack. Four by seven feet and hinged over our personal space which is seven inches deep. There are three racks stacked on top of each other. Jon sleeps in a pod with around 80 other sailors. Kathy and I did get to tour the Carl Vinson in November so I know what the conditions will be like.  Itís hard to believe that the Vinson is home to more than five thousand sailors, more than the City of Hampton. The largest cruise ship I have ever been on held around two thousand passengers with a crew of 800.

A confirmation email from the ship in May said that tiger cruisers will be able to see one of our countryís greatest assets first hand. The email stated the ship will show us a great display of airpower and drills including a man overboard rescue. The cruise home to San Diego will take 5 days. A mother of another sailor on the Vinson here to see her son in Hawaii said when the carrier comes home to San Diego there is usually a crowd of around seven thousand family and friends who gather to welcome the ship and its crew. She told me the media currently reports that more than 20 thousand people are expected in San Diego to welcome the ship and crew home from their nearly-seven-month deployment.

My five-day stint in the US Navy will start in a few hours. Jon needs to be back on board the Vinson by 2200 hours (10:00 p.m.), and tiger cruisers need to be onboard by 2300 hours tonight.  We sail tomorrow morning.  My goal onboard is to interview Iowa Sailors and other tiger cruisers, take a lot of pictures and continue to share my tiger cruise experience with KLMJ listeners. I am so glad I didnít have to go to boot camp!        Aloha.  Craig Donnelly


Craig's Interview with Jon