NORFOLK, VIRGINIA (WENY) -- Last month, WENY's Renata Stiehl and Nick Quattrini participated in a special program with the United States Navy Fleet Forces Command.

Called "Sailor for a Day", they spent the better part of a week at Naval Station Norfolk, learning about the roles of the Navy, and meeting the sailors who stand ready to answer the call when America needs them. We heard from sailors of all parts of the country, who all have their own reasons to serve.

Perhaps the most visible symbol of the U.S. Navy's strength is the aircraft carrier.  In our final installment of Valor at Sea, we had the privilege of flying out to sea, spending more than a day on board the USS George Washington (CVN 73). 

Our adventure began with a flight out to the ship on a C-2A Greyhound, a carrier on-board delivery (COD) aircraft. Landing safely on a flight carrier that's in motion on the water is dangerous, so the Navy squadron handling the flight held a safety briefing, and provided all passengers with cranial protection and life vests ahead of the trip. We were brief on what to do during the arrested landing - or trap - on the ship. 

Once on board, we were welcomed by USS George Washington's leadership, who welcomed us for our stay. The USS George Washington is one of ten Nimitz-class aircraft carriers in the Navy's fleet. 

"One of the great things about this is, the entire world sees it as the importance and significance of U.S. strength, being exercised abroad to show that we are a global force, and we are there to support our allies," explained Commander Eliot Weston, a Naval Flight Officer with the ship.

It wasn't long before we were in the middle of the action, on the flight deck observing student F18 pilots performing takeoff and landing exercises on the flight deck. The entire ship's crew is undergoing training and certifications during an 18-day underway, out to sea off the coast of Virginia in preparation for an upcoming deployment to Japan.

On the flight deck, sailors wearing a rainbow of colored jerseys safely guide the student F18 pilots into position. Working in concert, they use hand signals to communicate each step. The flight training doesn't just take place during the day; crews worked late into the night. Below decks, the ship's passageways were lit in red for night operations. 

Regardless of the time of day, thousands of sailors keep USS George Washington running. The ship is like a small city, constantly humming with activity.

"That's really what we do on board an aircraft carrier. We can go anywhere in the world, with 85 combat aircraft and really achieve our nation's objectives. But we have to be self-sufficient. So we've got our dental department, our own medical department, we cook thousands of meals a day for all of our sailors, everybody has their own little piece of the puzzle to sustain the warship. This is the end result on the flight deck, the pilots landing and recovering, but it takes 3,000 people all doing their individual job to make this floating city at sea work," said Captain Will Mathis, the Executive Officer of USS George Washington.

In 2024, the carrier will deploy to Japan, with the thousands of sailors on board ready to put their training and certifications from these underways to the test - serving America, almost seven thousand miles away from home. 

The deployment will be the first for USS George Washington, after completing a nearly six-year mid-life Service Life Extension Program (SLEP). The overhaul ensures it's ready to serve the current and next generation of men and women in the U.S. Navy.