Maverick Visits The USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77)

Maverick Visits The USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77)

You may have heard of the Navy’s Top Gun program through the Hollywood movie Top Gun which premiered, believe it or not, over 30 years ago now, in 1986. The then-young Tom Cruise played the lead role of Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who served aboard the USS Enterprise. Last May (2022), the second film of the franchise, Top Gun: Maverick, came out and garnered “Top Gun” quality reviews and received six Oscar nominations, including for Best Picture. The Oscars were held his past weekend, and the movie ended up winning the award for Best Sound.

In the week before the Oscars, the crew of the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) had the unique experience of having a visit from Tom Cruise, now 60 years old, who reprised his role as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in this latest film. Cruise and actress Hannah Waddington, who plays the role of the acerbic owner of a British soccer team, AFC Richmond, in the very popular “Ted Lasso” TV series, went aboard the massive carrier on March 3, 2023, to watch the movie and spend some time with the crew in the ship’s hangar bay.

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Such visits are not new to the military. During WWII and in Vietnam, visits by Hollywood stars and entertainers were relatively common. Bob Hope was famous for these “USO” shows that came to the troops to raise morale and to bring a little taste of “home” into the strange and dangerous places that the troops were serving in. It was a way to take their minds off of the war, if only for a brief hour or two. I never had the opportunity to see one of these shows while I was in Vietnam, but many did, and they are part of the memories that many have from their time in Vietnam.

The USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) is the tenth and final Nimitz-class supercarrier of the United States Navy and named after our 41st President, who was also a former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and a decorated naval aviator himself in WWII. She was commissioned on the 10th of January, 2009, at her homeport in Norfolk, VA. Her motto is “Freedom At Work," and her nickname is “Avenger.” She is nuclear-powered, can reach speeds of up to 30 knots (35 mph), and has a crew of 3,532 in the ship's company and 2,480 in its air wing (total of 6,012). She also carries 90 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.

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Much of the crew was able to attend the showing of Top Gun: Maverick along with Cruise and Waddington. As an aircraft carrier, and one of the most powerful ships in the world precisely because of the air power that she can project around the world, her hangar bay was just about as perfect a venue for the showing of the movie as it gets.

The current commanding officer of the George H.W. Bush is Capt. Dave Pollard. He is himself a graduate of the Navy Fighter Weapons School, known more familiarly as the “Top Gun” school, and is also an instructor. Capt. Pollard said of the visit, “It buoys my spirits to know that the leading entertainers and filmmakers of our day not only conceptually know what we do, but they can relate to what our nation’s warriors do on a daily basis through their personal experiences aboard the USS George H.W. Bush.” He also said that the visit “paid dividends toward our crew’s morale from top down.”

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The USS George H.W. Bush deployed on August 10th, 2022, in exercises with NATO allies. She is the flagship of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 10, which includes Carrier Wing (CW) 7, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 26, the Information Warfare Commander, and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55).

Top Gun: Maverick premiered last May and has proven to be even more popular than the first movie. I have seen it myself, and it is very well done. It has a good storyline, and the action scenes in the jets will have you sitting on the edge of your seat. In the first film, Maverick and the others were flying F-14 Tomcats. Appropriately, in this latest version, they are flying the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. And those Navy Top Gun pilots truly are the best of the best. It is a visually and audibly stunning film. It is solid entertainment and very accurate in its portrayal of the skill of these Top Gun pilots and their machines.

Bravo Zulu to the crew and the pilots of the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77). You truly are “Freedom at Work!”

Meet some real-life Top Guns in the video below!

Dan Doyle

Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.

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