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Pinoy Crew Of US Carrier Elated to Meet Aquino

MANILA -President Benigno Aquino III, upon the invitation of US Amb. Harry Thomas, Jr. led senior members of his Cabinet on a hush-hush visit to the American nuclear-powered carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, from where terrorist Osama bin Laden was buried at sea following his killing by US Navy Seals on May 2.

Aquino was given a special tour of the aircraft carrier while she was still out at sea on May 14. He also met and posed for picture with scores of the Filipino American crew of the carrier. (See photo on page 1)

The sailors on the aircraft carrier were elated to see President Aquino who toured the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier as it approached Manila for a port visit.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet the president,” gushed Senior Chief Personnel Specialist (SW/AW) Raymond Gloria.

“Most of the people out here have left their homeland for one reason or another. Being recognized by the president of their homeland of birth or nationality, they know they’re welcome,” he explained.
“I didn’t expect the president. I thought there would just be some military personnel and I was pretty surprised,” said Logistics Specialist 3rd Class Jourdan Borcena, who revealed plans to visit his parents while they’re anchored in Manila.

“It’s an honor to have the president visit our sailors. My gather was in the Navy and he took me as a young boy to visit the Philippines. It’s great to come back,” said Capt. Bruce Lindsey, the Carl Vinson’s skipper.

About a hundred Fil-Am crew members were allowed to meet with the President and have souvenir photos taken. “It brings a lot of morale since there’s such a large number of Filipinos on board,” Borcena declared.
About 900 of the USS Carl Vinson’s 6,000-strong crew are Filipino-Americans.
The 97,000-ton super-carrier recently landed in the front pages when Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s corpse was brought there to be buried at sea.

They were under strict orders not to talk about it to the press corps that accompanied President Aquino. American officials were more concerned about a different kind of message.
The Manila visit had been planned long before Navy SEALs raided Bin Laden’s hide-out but it helped draw attention to one of America’s oldest ally in Asia. US officials in Manila lined up a friendly soccer game against the Philippine Navy, they would also help build houses for the poor in Caloocan City and visit a Makati orphanage.

The ship, escorted by three other vessels, docked in Manila Bay on May 15 ” on a four-day routine port call and goodwill visit that highlighted the strong historic, community and military connections between the US and the Philippines,” the US embassy said.

The aircraft carrier came from the North Arabian Sea, where it had received the US Seal teams who carried Bin Laden’s body after killing the al-Qaida leader in a daring raid on his home in Pakistan.
Two Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters from the same carrier took a low-level flight across Pakistan to deliver the US Navy Seal team that took out Bin Laden from his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
“We are so honored that President Aquino was able to visit the carrier today,” said Thomas in a statement.

In impromptu remarks on the ship, the President reaffirmed the “historic, defense and cultural ties” between the United States and the Philippines, one of Washington’s oldest and closest Asian allies.”
Malacanang said that while on board, no discussions took place about the Carrier’s participation in the US attack in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and Bin Laden’s subsequent sea burial.
With the President were Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Armed Forces Chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Oban, and others. They were on board the ship for three hours and had lunch on board.

It was the first time that the President had to visit an aircraft carrier and watch plans and helicopters land.
Amid warnings that Filipino Muslims could be outraged at the presence of the US ship that carried out Bin Laden’s burial, the Philippine Navy stressed that the Carl Vinson was on a “routine port call’ aimed at enhancing relations between allies. (With reports from RJJ)

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