Jaguars players got to experience a different kind of teamwork on Tuesday, when they visited with the crew of the USS Thomas Hudner and got an up-close look at the operations of the new naval combat ship and the 310 sailors stationed aboard.
In recognition of the Jaguars’ month-long Salute to Service celebration powered by CSX, Jaguars players, including DT Marcell Dareus, DT Abry Jones, TE Blake Bell, LB Leon Jacobs, P Logan Cooke, QB Tanner Lee and LS Matt Overton, toured the destroyer before taking time to meet and sign autographs for everyone on board.
“It was really cool,” said Jones. “You see how they had the protection with the big guns and a whole bunch of missiles on the front, but as you go through the ship, you see a lot more parts go into it. Everyone really has set schedule and really has to do their job for this one massive ship to move at all. It shows the teamwork and the coordination they’ve all been putting into this.”
The players visited the main deck, officers’ dining hall, bridge, combat information center, captain’s quarters and onboard weapons capabilities. They asked questions about how the ship’s steering, its cabin pressurization system and how the sailors combat sea sickness. They also had the opportunity to thank them for their service to country.
“A lot of people look up to football players, but we really appreciate everything they do,” said Jones. “Some people make a career choice of the military and that can be hard because you really have to commit yourself and years of your life to the service, and you are really giving up a lot.”
The USS Thomas Hudner is the 66th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and will be tasked with air, surface and submarine warfare missions. The ship will be commissioned on December 1 in Boston before returning to its homeport of Naval Station Mayport. After completing its testing phase for the ship’s warfare systems, the ship will deploy alongside a carrier strike group for 6 to 8 months at a time. Its primary mission will likely be ballistic missile defense.
“Mayport is our homeport,” said CDR Nathan Scherry, Commanding Officer of the USS Thomas Hudner. “When we go out to sea, we ultimately come back here, so the 310 sailors that we have on board, their families will live in the Jacksonville community. The crew really appreciates the Jaguars coming out here. It’s a great opportunity for us to showcase what we do and for them to say thanks. We really appreciate it.”