NORFOLK (NNS) -- USS Dwight D. Eisenhower welcomed visitors aboard for tours, Oct. 8, signaling the start of Norfolk Navy Week 2011, a celebration of the Navy's long-standing and continued relationship with Virginia's Hampton Roads communities.
Naval Station Norfolk kicked off their celebration of the week-long festivities with a Fleet Fest opening their gates to the public for an open house.
A centerpiece of the Fleet Fest was a chance to visit the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Eisenhower.
"The community gets to see what we do to protect their freedom, and it helps them feel like they're a part of us," said Chief Aviation Machinist's Mate Jorge Estrada, of Eisenhower's Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department.
Guests were ferried down the pier to the ship, up the brow and into the hangar bay where they were presented with static aircraft displays, visual presentations, and plenty of Eisenhower Sailors ready to explain and demonstrate how they contribute to the mission readiness of today's Navy.
"My role in Fleet Fest is to show the visitors our ship, show them what we do on Ike, and keep them together so they [remain safe]," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Doug Herbert of Eisenhower's Medical Department who assisted as a tour guide.
Guests aboard the ship expressed their gratitude toward the Sailors' continued sacrifices in protecting the country's national interests, both at home and abroad.
"I liked being able to see the bulk of what it is Sailors do. It's impressive, and I can't say enough how much I thank each and every servicemember," said Barbara Taylor of Suffolk, Va.
Along with static displays and presentations in the hangar, guests rode the ship's aircraft elevator to the flight deck where Sailors explained the process required to launch and recover an F/A-18 Super Hornet in support of the Navy's mission.
The Peterson family of Hampton Roads said their time aboard Eisenhower's flight deck was the highlight of the tour. They also enjoyed riding the elevator.
Following the flight deck tour, the guests departed, but most remained in the ship's shadow for activities near the pier including a children's play area, car show, live entertainment and various concessions.
"It's nice to see all the quality that goes into manning a ship, and I love to see what goes on there," said Francesca Novollo of East Shodsberry, Pa.
Norfolk Navy Week is one of 21 Navy Weeks being held across America in 2011 as part of an ongoing program to educate and inspire America's public by allowing them to see firsthand what the Navy brings to their communities.