USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) is spending Christmas in the Persian Gulf and will be joined by America’s highest-ranking officer, an Olympic gold medalist, a country singer and Wilmar Valderrama, among others participating in a USO tour.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Joseph Dunford is joined aboard Stennis with three-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist Shaun White, three-time CrossFit World Champion Mat Fraser, country music singer Kellie Pickler, “This is Us” actor Milo Ventimiglia and “That 70s Show” actor Wilmar Valderrama.
Dunford met with sailors. Pickler performed some of her hits for the crew and sung duets with sailors. Ventimiglia and Valderrama also gave performances, while White and Fraser pumped-up the crew, according to the Navy.
Stennis’ entry to the Persian Gulf marks the first time a U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier has been in the region since March, when USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) departed. Big-deck amphibious warships USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) and USS Essex (LHD-2) have operated in the Persian Gulf in the interim.
The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group entered the Persian Gulf late last week. The CSG reported being monitored by Iranian forces, including being shadowed by surveillance drones, but nothing considered out of the ordinary for transiting the Strait of Hormuz, a Navy spokeswoman told USNI News.
When U.S. ships enter the Persian Gulf, the expectation now is that Iranian forces will trail the movements using either smaller boats or unmanned aerial vehicles, Capt. Jack Killman, the commander of Amphibious Squadron 4, Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, said when reviewing his recent deployment to the region during the October NDIA Expeditionary Warfare Conference.
In the past, Iranian officials have stated their naval forces would defend the waters and that the U.S. Navy was not welcome in the region.