LA Fleet Week officially launched Friday morning, May 25, under cloudy skies in San Pedro, drawing early groups of people eager to tour the three visiting Navy ships — and one Coast Guard cutter — and take in all the displays arrayed at the main expo near the Battleship Iowa.
“There’s so much to see,” said Susie King of Glendale.
She and her partner, Ed Savage, attended last year’s LA Fleet Week and made sure to mark it on their 2023 calendar.
“I love the military,” Savage said, “and we had a great time last year.”
Arrayed in the Outer Harbor of the Port of Los Angeles were the USS Cincinnati, the USS Princeton and the USS Ashland, all open for pubic tours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, as well as throughout the Memorial Day weekend.
Cmdr. Robert Burke, commanding officer of the USS Cincinnati, said all three ships are examples of the advanced technology used by today’s Navy.
A strong Navy, he said, is as “important as ever.” All three ships have the ability to handle aircraft as well.
Visitors to the Navy ships also get a look at what the life of a sailor onboard the vessels is like, he said.
Scott Stewart of Seal Beach said the tours of the Cincinnati and Princeton that he and his wife took offered some “amazing” history. The technology and armament was impressive too.
At the main expo venue, open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., morning crowds began flowing in early, taking in the many displays of equipment — including a “Top Gun”-worthy attack helicopter (the AH-1Z Viper) — operated by the Navy, Marines and Army. The personal interactions between military personnel and the public are among the highlights emphasized during Fleet Week events.
There were bomb detection robots, specialty vehicles and a mobile outdoor gym on display. At the gym, U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Dayhon Wheeler and fellow Marines from Camp Pendleton “spotted” and assisted youngsters eager to test their own strength.
Marine helicopter mechanic Sgt. Brian Heidel said he was enjoying talking to former service members who stopped to marvel at the advanced technology of the Viper attack helicopter, an updated and aggressive machine that drew several onlookers.
A different vibe was available at the Stewards of the Sea booth, which highlighted the Navy’s worldwide civilian crew that cares for the environment.
The southwest division present at Fleet Week cares for endangered island foxes, along with a host of other creatures.
“Almost no one knows the Navy has an environmental program,” said Mirna Gonzalez, the scientist who was staffing the group’s children’s booth on Friday.
During Fleet Week, kids can make cardboard sailor hats at that booth and learn about the various animals the group helps to protect through other crafts and visual aids.
On the stage, meanwhile, karaoke and other contests were ongoing. A 4-year-old named Everett, with some help from his dad, successfully identified the song “Surfin’ Bird” — or “Bird is the Word” — featured in a now-vintage film, “Full Metal Jacket.”
There were military recruitment booths, and others run by the Los Angeles Fire and Police departments, the Port Police, and even LA city’s Department of Water and Power.
Dave & Buster’s offered a basketball toss and arcade games.
And the fun is only just beginning. Fleet Week will run through Monday, May 29.
There are plenty of activities on tap for Saturday, including:
- Public ship tours (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.).
- Aircraft demonstrations over the Main Channel (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
- Expo booths and activities in front of the Battleship Iowa (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.).
- Military talent show, main stage qualifying round (10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.).
- Dodgeball tournament (10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.).
- Navy Band Southwest, main stage (1-2 p.m.).
- U.S. Navy enlistment and officer commissioning, main stage (2-2:15 p.m.).
- 4NR Foreigner Tribute Band, main stage (2:30 to 4 p.m.).
- L.A.vation U2 Tribute Band, main stage (4:45 to 6 p.m.).
Source: Orange County Register
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