Day 1: Feb. 26, 2004
First Contact



I made the flight in plenty of time. John got me to the Dayton airport with time to spare and, just as I got there, a half-hour delay was posted. Then another and another until we finally got off nearly two hours late. On the ground in Chicago, delays getting to the terminal made me start to wonder if the nearly three hours scheduled between flights would be enough. The scheduled departure was less than half an hour away when I finally reached the assigned gate but there was no risk of being left. The second leg ended up being more than an hour late boarding and that occurred some fifteen gates away from the original assignment. Then, on the plane, additional delays, including deplaning three volunteers because the plane was too heavy, set us up for reaching Jacksonville a couple of hours later than planned. But the Navy shuttle was waiting and I was soon on my way to Mayport and my first glimpse of the Big E at dockside.

Tigers entered through one of the two onboard hangars where we were greeted and given ID badges. Fletcher had waited there until he decided that I must have missed the flight but a telephone call soon had him on his way back to the hangar deck.

We went down to my rack so I could unload my duffel then headed up to the Public Affairs office where Fletcher works.

The Public Affairs space is just below the flight deck so Fletcher treated me to my first visit topside. Pretty impressive although hardly good snapshot material in the darkness. It was near midnight and my long travel day made me ready to give that rack a try.

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