By Jaylan Boyle, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Late last month, fresh from playing a key role in Operation Unified Response, the international humanitarian aid mission to assist Haiti after the disastrous earthquake, the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson made a stopover in Rio de Janeiro. The purpose of the trip was to strengthen bilateral military relations, and a number of U.S. sailors also took part in a series of volunteer exercises in the city.
“We appreciate the strong relationship that has developed between the military forces of our two countries. It is an interaction based on mutual respect, and our intention is to further strengthen our partnerships and joint missions,” said Thomas Shannon, the U.S. Ambassador of Brazil.
The USS Carl Vinson first went into service in 1980, and is 333 meters long, 78 meters wide and 74 meters tall, approaching the dimensions of a 24-story building. She is of the Nimitz class of carriers, and at race speed can impressively hit the mark at 30 or more knots (equal to 56 kilometers per hour or 35 miles per hour) powered by two nuclear reactors. Her range is essentially unlimited, and she could in theory stay moving for 20 years or more.
Her namesake was a member of the U.S House of Representatives for 50 years and was for 29 years Chairman of the House Naval Affairs and Armed Services Committee. In total the ship can accommodate 6,250 crewmembers, and can house 60 planes and 15 helicopters.
On February 27th, sailors from the carrier were involved in volunteer work that involved painting facilities at two Recreio public schools, Escola Municipal Vice-Almirante Alvaro Alberto and Escola Municipal Vice-Almirante Paulo Moreira. They were joined by about 20 of their fellow Brazilian sailors, and had the opportunity to get to know their colleagues and share experiences of life in the navy. After work was completed, the two schools were presented with photo collages commemorating the visit.
Another project that U.S. sailors participated in took place at the People’s Central Institute, a local community center in the Gamboa neighborhood which was founded by an American missionary over a century ago. The center helps local working parents by offering a daycare service, and provides a venue for the hosting of various cultural and sporting activities.
In addition to helping with painting and other maintenance tasks, the sailors, perhaps wearied after their labors, were well defeated by a team of local children in a friendly game of soccer. All of the children were given a USS Carl Vinson baseball cap and packed lunches.
The goodwill mission also involved further sporting fixtures between the sailors of both nations, although results have not been reported. A reception for around 400 guests was also held aboard the carrier.
International media was mainly focusing on the positive aspects of the visit: the only aberration on that theme was a French Agency reportedly questioning the motive of the mission, seeing it as an attempt to sway Brazil’s government into buying American military hardware.