Navy and OPSAIL CT leave strong wake

The Dolphin

Serving the Naval Submarine Base New London

__________________________________________

Published: Thursday, July 12, 2012

By Navy New London Public Affairs

NIANTIC, Conn. – (July 6, 2012) A Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) storms the beach in Niantic, Conn., as part of the kick off event for OpSail Connecticut 2012. The LCAC is apart of the USS Carter Hall (LSD 50), which served as one of the premier vessels during the celebration commemorating the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the Star-Spangled Banner. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Gabriel Bevan/Released)

NEW LONDON, Conn. –

Operation Sail (OpSail) 2012 Connecticut, the final port of call for the numerous signature events around the country commemorating the U.S. sea services, OpSail 2012, the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, and the Star-Spangled Banner, concluded here Monday, July 9.

Niantic Bay

The multi-day OpSail Connecticut celebration began July 6, with many of the 24 ships that would be involved in the next day’s Parade of Sail up the Thames River to New London, anchoring in Niantic Bay.

As Dock Landing Ships support amphibious operations including landings of U.S. Marines and other forces onto hostile shores, Carter Hall and its crew of more than 500 Marines and Sailors kicked-off OpSail Connecticut with an awe-inspiring demonstration of one of their Navy amphibious landing craft.

A Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) from Carter Hall, made an unprecedented amphibious landing on Niantic’s Hole in the Wall Beach at 4:15 p.m., to thunderous applause from a mass of onlookers.

After landing, the LCAC embarked a small number of OpSail officials and Navy guests to include OpSail Connecticut Chairman John Johnson, for a brief ride.

The LCAC then “stormed” the beach, landing and rolling-off a number of U.S. Marine Corps vehicles and personnel including a few High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) or “Humvees.”

“Being on the LCAC as it stormed the beach was awesome!” exclaimed Jeanette Vatter, wife of SUBASE Command Master Chief Tommy Vatter. “This was definitely a once in the lifetime experience.”

Other Carter Hall Sailors and Marines came ashore to the adjacent McCook Park to join a welcome celebration and cook-out for Navy, Coast Guard and OpSail crews coordinated by East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica and many local businesses and restaurants.

“The Niantic affair set the tone for the rest of the weekend. A fabulous event!” said Johnson.

Parade of Sail

On Saturday, July 7, the eagerly anticipated Parade of Sail into New London included nine U.S. Navy and U.S Coast Guard ships.

Representing the U.S Coast Guard were the 87-foot Coastal Patrol Boats Sailfish and Ridley, buoy tender Juniper (WLB 201), icebreaker Morro Bay (WTGB 106), and Parade of Sail leader, America’s tall Ship, the Coast Guard Barque Eagle (WIX 327).

In addition to USS Carter Hall, four Yard Patrol Craft from the United States Navy Academy represented the Navy.

The public then had a chance to visit Carter Hall, Eagle, and other OpSail ships when they were open for tours Saturday and Sunday. The public was also able to observe a U.S. Coast Guard fly-over with both fixed wing and rotary aircraft during the Parade of Sail on the Thames River on Saturday; and, a Coast Guard Search and Rescue demonstration with a helicopter just off the Fort Trumbull State Park pier in the Thames River on Sunday.

“To see a side of the Navy those of us at SUBASE and Naval Submarine School (SUBSCOL) rarely see was really special,” said Electronics Technician Seaman Stephen Cordova from the Silver Dolphins. “Being a Silver Dolphin has given me the opportunity to see vessels like the Carter Hall, I can only imagine how exciting an experience it was for members of the public who’ve only seen such ships and equipment in movies.”

Saturday evening, Carter Hall hosted a Sunset Parade and Fireworks Observation reception that included performances by Navy Band Northeast and the Naval Submarine School Silver Dolphin Precision Drill Team. Distinguished local visitors to the event not only had an opportunity to learn some War of 1812 Navy history but also to tour Carter Hall and learn about its recent missions.

“To be aboard the USS Carter Hall for the reception and fireworks on Saturday night… was a rare opportunity, indeed. The ship was awesome in the true sense of the word,” said Mayor Marian Galbraith of the City of Groton. “The crew members we met could not have been more gracious.”

Community Interaction

On Sunday, while a contingent of some 60 Carter Hall Sailors ran in New London’s Sailfest 5-K Road Race, 35 midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy Yard Patrol Craft participating in OpSail Connecticut participated in a community service project with the New London Homeless Hospitality Center. The midshipmen had also donated dozens of boxes of extra food to the Gemma E. Moran United Way – Labor Food Center upon their arrival to New London.

“The Mids were so incredibly positive and pleased to be supporting the community and making a difference,” said SUBASE OpSail Planning Officer Lt. Paul Blodgett. “And the volunteer coordinators at the Homeless Hospitality Center were astounded that these young people would give up their Sunday liberty so freely to help others.”

For all their hard work planning and participating in the three day OpSail Connecticut event, Navy and Coast Guard crews were treated to an OpSail wrap-up cook-out, luncheon, and barbeque at Groton’s Shennecossett Yacht Club (SYC).

“Kudos … for the great barbeque they had at SYC,” said former Congressman Rob Simmons and OpSail 2012 Connecticut Treasurer. “I was there for two hours talking to Coasties and Sailors, and what a treat that was. They were very appreciative of the low key relaxing environment and wonderful hospitality.”

For Blodgett, the real tribute to the whole OpSail 2012 Connecticut event went beyond the impact the Navy made during the celebration to the impact that OpSail and New London made on the Navy.

“All the hard work and effort came into sharp focus when I felt rewarded to hear a Carter Hall Sailor tell me, that in his ten years of going to sea with Navy, this was the best and friendliest port visit he experienced,” said Blodgett.

OpSail 2012 and its commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 was a salute to all Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen, who fought gallantly in that conflict, who served in all our nation’s conflicts since then, and who are defending freedom around the world today.

As the Navy’s major participant, the 609 ft. long, Navy Dock Landing Ship, USS Carter Hall (LSD 50), slipped its moorings at New London’s State Pier and headed south down the Thames River, it left in its wake tens of thousands of impressed citizens of Connecticut and New England who had been thrilled to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as see, first-hand, the latest capabilities of today’s maritime services.

“OpSail Connecticut provided our Sailors, Marines and units of our Navy’s Surface fleet like Carter Hall, a wonderful opportunity to enjoy an area of our great Nation that loves the Navy and that they may not have otherwise experienced,” said Capt. Marc W. Denno, Naval Submarine Base New London (SUBASE) Commanding Officer and Navy lead for OpSail Connecticut. One Carter Hall Sailor would sum up the experience: to stand on the deck and embark on this public event with throngs of people cheering and applauding made him feel like an astronaut.

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