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Fleet Week 2016 Kicks Off In Fort Lauderdale, As Ships Sail Into Port Everglades

Fleet Week is officially underway in Fort Lauderdale. 

The USS Cole pulled into Port Everglades just before 7 a.m. Monday morning, with the USS Bataan making its way in around 8 a.m. Other ships participating in Fleet Week include the USS Bainbridge, the USCGC Robert Yered, and nuclear submarine USS California. 

About 2,000 service men and women will be out and about in the city this week, doing community service, engaging with the public, and taking in the sun, sights and surf. Nearly 50 of those call South Florida home. 

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“They enjoy going to the beach and Las Olas Boulevard and Himmarshee Village,” said J.W. Arnold, a representative for Broward Navy Days, which organizes the event. 

They’ll be easy to spot, too. The service members are required to be in uniform as they walk around town.

The festivities begin Monday night with a special “All Hands on Deck” welcome party at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. The schedule of events for the week also includes Military Night with the Miami Marlins, a “Galley Wars” culinary competition involving crews from the Navy and Coast Guard ships, and a Navy Band concert.

A record 13,000 civilians have also signed up to tour some of the ships

Three of the ships—the USS Bainbridge, USS Cole and USS Bataan—sailed in from Norfolk, Virginia, which is about a four-day journey to Fort Lauderdale.

In addition to the service members and crew, the USS Bataan also carried members of the US Naval Sea Cadet Corps, Spruance Division from Fort Lauderdale. During the trip, the youth development program essentially gives the teens a first-hand look at the daily routine aboard one of these ships. 

"For a kid, that is an experience of a lifetime," said Oscar Romano, president of the Fort Lauderdale Council of the Navy League.

For Romano, one of the best parts about Fleet Week is welcoming the service members with open arms. Sure, some of them have relatives here, but “sometimes you become that family” for the others, he said. 

He recalls meeting a sailor who named his son Cole in honor of the 17 sailors killed aboard the USS Cole during a suicide bombing on the Navy destroyer when it was anchored in Yemen in 2000. The ship has 17 gold stars below deck in memory of those who lost their lives. 

“These are the little things that come to my mind,” he said. 

The start of Fleet Week is just the beginning for what will be a military-themed next few days. The Fort Lauderdale Air Show is set to kick off May 7 and 8 after a two-year hiatus. The headliners include the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the Canadian Air Force Snowbirds and the Breitling Jet Team. 

Fleet Week and the Air Show are not affiliated. 

Check out photos and video of the USS Bataan and USS Cole, below. 

USS Cole heading into Port Everglades on Monday, May 2. (Photo by Ileana Llorens)

US Naval Sea Cadet Corps, Spruance Division from Fort Lauderdale aboard the USS Bataan on May 2. (Photo courtesy Tanya Wallace)

 

Lead image shows USS Bataan making its way into Port Everglades. (Photo by Ileana Llorens)