Local part of historical event —Randy Assmus attends last Tiger Cruise for Big ‘E’

Randy Assmus with son FC1 Patrick Assmus aboard the USS Enterprise.

Randy Assmus with son FC1 Patrick Assmus aboard the USS Enterprise.

By Marcie Klomp

 

It’s not very often that a person can say he participated in a part of history. Randy Assmus of Lime Springs is one of the few. He sailed on the last voyage of the USS Enterprise (CVN 65). Some readers have seen the ship. It was the one used in the filming of “Top Gun.”

Assmus and son-in-law Jay Bosserman were guests on the last Tiger Cruise before the ship was inactivated. Their sponsor was Assmus’ son FC1 (SW/AW) Patrick Assmus. His rate is a Fire Control (FC) Technician. His rank is First Class Petty Officer (1). Patrick works in Combat Systems Department. He joined the Navy July 18, 2000 and is planning on making the Navy a career.

Patrick left on the Big ‘E’ March 11, 2012. The ship traveled to the North Arabian (Persian) Sea, Arabian (Persian) Gulf, Mediterranean Sea, Suez Canal, Straits of Hormuz, Dubai, Bahrain, Athens and Naples. They met Hurricane Sandy on their trip to Naval Station Mayport in Florida, which is where Randy and Jay boarded.

Randy commented, “Patrick said the ship came back on the south side of Sandy. The sea spray was coming onto the flight deck. But the seas were perfect for us.”

The two men and other Tigers joined the crew of the Enterprise on Nov. 2. They all enjoyed a breakfast with all the trimmings at 0530 and boarded the ship by 0900. “They had bomb-sniffing dogs, but they never checked our IDs. The airport was worse.” (Randy had just renewed his driver’s license and still had the paper copy. Airport security was not thrilled with the paper copy!)

Dolphins followed the ship out to sea, and that was the last Randy saw of them. He was told the ship was about 200 miles off the eastern coast for the three-day trip from Florida to Norfolk, Va.

“Patrick had the whole time off. He took Jay and I everywhere. There are steps everywhere. It gives you a workout,” Randy said. He also commented on how the younger generation was much faster at traversing through the steps and hallways. “When they got too far ahead, I’d just stop and wait for them to come back and get me,” he laughed.

Although, he did get lost at least once. It was the middle of the night and he had to ‘go’. “I literally rolled out of the bunk and found the head.” Then he got turned around and couldn’t find his way back. He found a sailor who headed him in the right direction. “I’ve never been treated with so much dignity by young people in my life. They were all very respectful.”

When a person thinks of the military, they probably think of rooms filled with the newest technology. That wasn’t necessarily the case on the Enterprise. Although the sailors were able to get their jobs done efficiently, Patrick was sure his next deployment would have touch screen computers and air conditioning.

The “ouija board” will be another upgrade for the sailor. The planes on board and in the air need to be kept track of on a table. Each plane is a metal cutout and different colored thumbtacks or nuts and washers are used to show their status.

The board is one-of-a-kind since other boards are much more sophisticated. It was to go to the Smithsonian after its removal from the ship.

Much of this was fascinating to Bosserman, who is an engineer.

The Enterprise, which was commissioned 51 years ago, Nov. 25, 1961, was getting old and tired. After 25 deployments, it was the oldest actively-commissioned U.S. Naval ship. It was inactivated on Dec. 1. At the decommissioning ceremony, it was announced the next carrier, CVN 80, is to be named Enterprise, although it will be several years before it is ready to be built.

Randy was happy the trip lasted just two nights. Sleeping three high in bunks was much more cozy than he had expected. “It’s about the size of a coffin!”

Besides Patrick showing his father and brother-in-law around, the visitors were treated to maneuvres. Six aircraft were launched the first day and gave an air show, presenting an example of a dog fight. They then flew to Oceana, Va. They did not return to the ship. All planes are flown to their destination to lighten the load on the carrier. Thirty-seven more jets were launched and sent to Virginia the second day.

Two destroyers came beside the Enterprise and also gave a show by shooting their five-inch shells.

“At dark they sent out flairs on the ocean and opened up with 50-caliber machine guns. They had eight of them on board,” Randy recalled.

The last night, the captain and admiral spoke. “They gave a bunch of statistics about the trip. There were 93 new fathers. They told how many emails came in and out. They also gave out a lot of promotions. Then they drew for the first kiss.” The winner was the first sailor to get off and receive a kiss from his or her sweetie.

The third day, the ship landed at Norfolk. The group packed, had breakfast and left. “Eight thousand people were waiting to greet us.”

Randy and Bosserman flew into Kennedy Airport in New York on Nov. 4. “Flying in, the Manhattan side was kinda pretty, with all the lights. The New Jersey side was still dark because of Sandy. There were rows of cargo ships waiting to unload.”

It was a once in a lifetime experience for Assmus, literally. Family and friends are only allowed to go on one Tiger Cruise with their sponsor, but Randy had so much fun he said, “I’d go again if I could.”

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