U.S. Navy Lieut. Mark Bristol, aka Father Mark Bristol, parochial vicar at St. Anastasia parish, Douglaston, celebrated his first anniversary as a priest, with a three-day whirlwind observance of Fleet Week.
On the first day after the Navy had come to town, Father Bristol was given a VIP tour of the USS Yuma, the newest ship in the naval fleet. And we tagged along with Msgr. Anthony Sherman, pastor of St. Anastasia, and Msgr. George Ryan, pastor emeritus. We were accompanied by Evan Bergollo, a St. A’s parishioner who will attend Xavier H.S., Manhattan, in the fall, and Currents’ reporter Michelle Powers who was filing a video report for the following day.
After passing through some heavy security, we were greeted by salutes and a welcome from the ship’s Captain David Gommo, our personal guide.
Capt. Gommo told us that he headed up a 26-member civilian crew employed by the Navy to operate the Yuma. They had just arrived on their maiden voyage from the shipyards in Norfolk, Va.
The Yuma is one of 12 new expeditionary fast transports designed to rapidly move troops and military equipment within a theater of action. It can also be set up for use as a portable hospital or to evacuate people from a disaster area.
The ship is made of aluminum, a light material to provide maximum speed, which is 53 miles per hour on the open sea. Everything about the ship is designed for speed. For instance, there is no copper wiring for communication devices. It’s all fiber optic, hence a lighter weight.
Father Bristol, who will begin his tour of duty as a Navy chaplain in two years, was mesmerized by the state-of-the-art ship as he asked questions about the different systems. We learned that the ship operates by jet-propelled gusts of water that are cycled through the catamaran-type hulls. Simple joysticks on the captain’s deck move the ship back and forth, as well as from side to side – something that seemed to astonish Msgr. Sherman.
When Msgr. Ryan asked how long it took to train the crew, we all were amazed that the answer was only five weeks.
Out on the back deck, we braved the constant drizzle to inspect the landing pad that can receive up to two helicopters at a time.
It was the perfect start to Fleet Week.
For Father Lieut. Bristol it continued with a tour of the USS Kearsarge, a reunion with former shipmates in Manhattan, a service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and participation in the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade.