ARABIAN GULF (NNS) — Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, led a group of distinguished visitors, to include a Medal of Honor recipient, the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman, and celebrity guests sponsored by the United Service Organizations (USO), to spend time with Sailors and Marines while deployed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Dec. 23 as part of a USO Holiday Tour.
"Christmastime is a tough time for our men and women who are deployed and what's important is we let them know that what they are doing out there every day really matters, that it is appreciated and the folks back home are paying attention to them," Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said.
Dunford, the distinguished guests, and the USO entertainers spent the day interacting with the deployed service members.
"This is my first deployment, so it really meant a lot to me for them to come out especially around the holidays," said Operations Specialist Seaman Kaitlyn Anderson. "I was really happy that I got to meet them all."
Sailors and Marines also gathered in the hangar bay for a variety show that featured appearances and performances by actor Adam Devine, WWE Superstars Michael "The Miz" Mizanin and Alicia Fox, celebrity chef Robert Irvine, musician Jerrod Niemann, comedian Iliza Shlesinger and TNA Wrestling star Gail Kim.
"My favorite part of the show was meeting [retired Army] Capt. Florent Groberg, the Medal of Honor recipient," said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Zachary Chavez. "Meeting someone like that up close while we're so far away from home is an honor. It truly it is."
After the performance, Sailors had a chance to meet with Dunford and the entertainers for photos and autographs.
"It shows me that Gen. Dunford cares, not just about his office but all of us around the world," said Cpl. Kevin Duran, assigned to the Checkerboards of Marine Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 312. "It shows that he really cares about his people."
All USO performers volunteered to travel over the holidays to participate in variety-style shows and troop engagements to show service members that America remembers them and values their service.
For more than 76 years, the USO, a private, nonprofit organization, has served the men and women of the U.S. military and their families throughout their service-from the moment they join, through their deployments and as they transition back to their communities.
More than 5,000 Sailors and Marines serve aboard Theodore Roosevelt with embarked staff from Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 9, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 23, and the squadrons and staff of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17.
CVW-17 squadrons include the "Stingers" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 113, the "Mighty Shrikes" of VFA-94, the "Fighting Redcocks" of VFA-22, the "Checkerboards" of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 312, the "Cougars" of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 139, the "Sun Kings" of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 116, the "Providers" of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30, the "Indians" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 6 and the "Battlecats" of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 73.
The Theodore Roosevelt Strike Group's deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations supports Operation Inherent Resolve and signals the continued commitment to defeat and destroy ISIS. In addition to anti-ISIS missions, the strike group is conducting maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners, preserve freedom of navigation and maintain the free flow of commerce.
Theodore Roosevelt left its homeport of San Diego, Oct. 6, for a regularly-scheduled deployment to the U.S. 7th and 5th Fleet areas of operations. Roosevelt's last deployment to U.S. 5th Fleet was in 2015 during the ship's homeport shift from Norfolk.