News: Fleet Week’s Parade of Ships flows into San Francisco Bay
Story by Sgt. Michael Cifuentes
SAN FRANCISCO - A fleet of the Navy, Coast Guard and Canadian Navy sea vessels entered the San Francisco Bay in a regal Parade of Ships Ceremony Oct. 8 for a pinnacle Fleet Week event.
San Francisco officials and senior leaders from the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Canadian navy were distinguished guests at the St. Francis Yacht Club to enjoy the parade with a ceremony overlooking the bay as the parade of ships passed by.
In the form of Fleet Week tradition, senior officers from the Navy, Coast Guard and Canadian navy stood to salute their service’s ships respectively in an official pass-and-review.
USS Carl Vinson, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier recently noteworthy for carrying the body of Osama bin Laden, led the parade as it rolled in with the late morning fog underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and into the bay.
The sailors of USS Carl Vinson fired a 15-gun salute from their ship’s artillery cannons, and soldiers of the 5th Brigade, 75th Division, returned fire from ashore, rendering a return salute.
The tradition dates back to the “Great White Fleet” from 1907 to 1909. President Theodore Roosevelt sent 16 battleships of the Atlantic Fleet on a 14-month voyage around the country to showcase American sea power. San Francisco’s first parade of ships was May 6, 1908.
San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee said he celebrated the tradition to recognize and honor the country’s men and women in uniform and the service they’re capable of providing to the Bay Area specifically.
“We wanted to make sure Fleet Week touches all of the citizens of San Francisco, and we found a way to do that,” Lee said. “It should not surprise you that the themes of our Fleet Weeks have evolved into disaster preparedness for the very one we expect to happen here.”
“As we salute the fleet of ships, I’d like to remind us all that we have a wonderful armed services for our country, and I’m very proud to give honor to all members,” Lee added.
The parade featured 13 ships, and thousands of San Franciscans gathered at the city’s north shore to watch ships enter their bay.
“The ships flowing under the Golden Gate Bridge, through the bay, and into the piers, attracted a whole lot of attention, which raises awareness of Fleet Week,” said Maj. Gen. Melvin G. Spiese, commander of 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
Military and San Francisco officials took on the mission of preparing for the next natural disaster that could potentially strike in San Francisco when they sat down to organize Fleet Week.
During the week, Marines and sailors serving with 1st MEB, who ported at Pier 32 via amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, trained alongside San Francisco emergency responders in medical surge capabilities. San Francisco emergency officials also returned their knowledge in emergency response to the service members, which will prepare them to operate in the city.
Spiese said the cross-training serves two important goals: introducing San Francisco officials to their Marines and sailors and building a good rapport between the two parties so when a natural disaster occurs in the city, the two will already have an established working relationship.
“The unique aspect of San Francisco Fleet Week is working on disaster preparedness and military support in the event of a catastrophic earthquake,” Spiese said. “We increase familiarity, awareness and understanding so in the event of having to come together, under the most pressure-packed of circumstances, we have the ability to flow together somewhat seamlessly and get right to the business of providing relief.”
The day continued with an air show featuring the Marine Corps and Navy’s aircraft – past and present. The Navy and Marine Corps were pleased to showcase their aircraft as they celebrate 100 years of aviation in their services. After the Marines and sailors of Fleet Week fulfilled their daily duties of training and serving, most were eager to enjoy San Francisco during their liberty time in the city.
Spiese commented on a perception of the city of San Francisco.
“This is a great place to be. San Francisco has welcomed us with open arms, and if you have to find a spot to wear the uniform representing the United States, this is a great place to do it,” Spiese said.