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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – South Florida welcomes hundreds of sailors and marines this week as they land at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale for the 25th annual Broward Navy Days’ Fleet Week Port Everglades.
While in town the visiting 2,000 or so sailors, marines and Coast Guard personnel will be on land for the week. Aside from the much needed rest and relaxation, many will also work on service projects like talking to children and doing some work at the Ronald McDonald House in Miami.
“For the Ronald McDonald House it’s a lot of clean-up projects, same with the crisis stabilization center. It’s all local here, they’ve got between 10 and 20 sailors and marines going to each,” said US Navy Chief Petty Officer Rafael Barney.
For some, like Daniela Allen with the US Navy, this is a trip home.
“I haven’t been home in over a year so it’s really nice to see palm trees and sunny skies. I’m dying to see my mom, of course,” Allen said.
In addition to commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Broward Navy Days fleet week, this year’s Fleet Week will also mark the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Coast Guard and the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Naval Reserves with special receptions.
Ships visiting the port for this year’s event are the amphibious assault ship U.S.S. Wasp; two destroyers, the U.S.S. Cole and U.S.S. James Williams; a submarine and the U.S. Coast Guard fast response cutter Richard Etheridge.
The U.S.S. Wasp is the biggest ship in port. It is an amphibious assault ship that transports Marines to battle. It’s similar to an aircraft carrier.
“We’re a floating city,” said Chief William Tonacchio. “We have everything you could possibly want here on board.”
The flight deck is nearly the size of three football fields. Aside form handling many types of planes and helicopters, it also transports equipment that comes along with the Marines, including hummers and amphibious assault vehicles.
One feature that makes the ship unique is that it can open the back door and let other boats float right in.
“We can flood it with water,” explained Chief Tonacchio. “You’re talking over a million gallons of water 10, 11 feet deep at the far end and you’re talking a few feet deep here just so they can come right up in.”
The “All Hands On Deck” welcome will take place Monday night at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
“Fleet Week provides an opportunity for the citizens of South Florida to meet and thank these heroes while witnessing first-hand the latest capabilities of today’s modern Navy and maritime services,” said explained Mary Anne Gray, chair of Broward Navy Days, Inc. in a statement.
Over the course of the week, more than 12,000 South Florida students, residents and veterans will get to tour the visiting Navy and Coast Guard ships. These tour reservations were made months ago, no more reservations are being taken.
The visiting sailors, marines and Coast Guard personnel will take part in a number of events including a golf tournament on Tuesday, a fishing tournament on Friday, luncheons, community outreach projects and challenges – such as the popular Galley Wars Culinary Competition and the Resolve Marine Damage Control Olympics.
Many events are free and open to the public. A complete schedule of events and links to register for ship tours can be found on BrowardNavyDaysInc.org.