LIMASSOL, Cyprus - "Underway, shift colors." This one phrase called out over the public address system aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) meant Limassol, Cyprus was now a fond memory for the crew.
The crew enjoyed a historic port visit here, marking the first time in recent memory that a U.S. aircraft carrier visited Cyprus in more than 40 years. Eisenhower anchored offshore on Oct. 25 and departed Oct. 28.
The ship had the opportunity to host Cypriot military, political and foreign business leaders for tours and an evening reception held in the ship's hangar bay as a gesture of goodwill and gratitude for welcoming the ship and the crew to the island.
"I deeply appreciate what Cyprus did to help with the evacuation of nearly 15,000 American citizens from Beirut, Lebanon, and the visit of this ship is a great way to say thank you," said U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus, Ronald Schlicher. "As a representative of the U.S., I am extremely proud."
The reception afforded the opportunity for some to experience an aircraft carrier for the first time.
"The reception was very good, and the first time I have been on a U.S. aircraft carrier," said Hungarian Air Force Lt. Col. Zoltan Hegymegi, deputy commander of United Nations Sector 4 and a guest at the reception. "This is a huge memory for me and a great gift."
"As partners, the United States works closely with our regional allies to strengthen our collective efforts to keep the seas free and safe for trade and commerce," said Myers during the reception. "As an interconnected community of maritime nations, we seek security and stability, and to deny the illegal use of the maritime environment as a venue to attack, or to illegally transport personnel, weapons or other material. Together we are more complimentary, more capable and more effective."
During the port visit, officers from the ship's operations department and Carrier Air Wing 7 participated in a Search and Rescue coordination exercise with the Cypriot National Guard.
"Only by working and communicating with our partners can we hope to have the relationships we need in the event of a crisis requiring a multinational effort," said Navy Cdr. Mark Simms, Eisenhower's Combat Direction Center Officer. "Through discussions, such as those conducted (during the port visit), partnerships are attained and from this work we can perhaps test our capabilities in an exercise that will further strengthen the ties between our countries."
Many Sailors made the most of the down time to relax and enjoy local culture, sightseeing, playing volleyball and basketball with Cypriot teams, and lending a helping hand to the community and to the citizens of the Mediterranean island. "Our Sailors are learning to appreciate the rich cultures of our friends throughout the world by operating together at sea and with the privilege of port visits such as this," said Commander, Carrier Strike Group 8, Navy Rear Admiral Al Myers.
"It was a great visit," said Navy Machinist's Mate 1st Class Michael Burdt. "A year ago, if someone told me that I would be going to Cyprus, I wouldn't have believed them. I learned a lot about the ancient culture."
Seventy Sailors decided to spend their free time volunteering in the community during three community relations projects. Volunteers spent a day painting two schools, while others cleaned a local beach.
"The best feelings come from helping others, especially in a different country," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Pat Martin, a volunteer for the beach clean-up. "It improves relationships with the international community," he said.
"It was a great three days in Limassol," said the ship's Commanding Officer, Navy Capt. Dan Cloyd. "Everyone represented our Navy and our country very well and established a reputation that is second to none," he said. Since entering the Mediterranean Sea in early October, USS Eisenhower has been conducting and will continue to coordinate theater security cooperation during a routine deployment to the region in support of maritime security operations and the Global War on Terror.