A recent re-enlistment ceremony for a Grovetown sailor and more than a dozen shipmates aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower was an out-of-this-world experience.
Navy Senior Chief Jimmie Hatcher and 15 fellow noncommissioned officers re-enlisted Jan. 29 via video conference by Navy Capt. Mike Lopez-Alegria, an astronaut aboard the international space station.
Orbiting 200 miles above the Earth, Lopez-Alegria appeared on a video monitor in the ship's war room and led the sailors in a recitation of their oath to defend the U.S. Constitution, according to a Navy news release.
It was the first re-enlistment ceremony of its kind, according to the release.
Hatcher, a hull technician aboard the Eisenhower, is a 23-year veteran of the Navy and is beginning his fifth tour of duty in the Middle East. The ship and its warship battle group are deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The energy and excitement for me was a feeling I will never forget," the senior chief wrote about the ceremony in an e-mail. "I will always cherish this moment in my naval career.
"Definitely, a story to tell long after I am retired from the United States Navy."
Lopez-Alegria forged a relationship with Eisenhower's commanding officer, Capt. Dan Cloyd, before the astronaut's trip to the space station in September, according to the release.
Lopez-Alegria took two Eisenhower commissioning pennants with him to space and will return one to the ship after his return to Earth, according to the release.
The sailors' families were permitted to watch the ceremony live via video conference from Norfolk, Va., the home port for the aircraft carrier. Unfortunately, Hatcher's family was not able to attend, the senior chief wrote.
Hatcher lives in Grovetown with his wife, Rhea, sons Eric and Michael and daughters Peyton and Spencer.
Hatcher expects to return from his tour this summer.
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