VICTORIA, Seychelles -- USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20) arrived here Jan. 28 as the team of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa headquarters element and the ship's crew continue their mission in the war against terrorism.
However, instead of looking for terrorists, they were looking for rest and relaxation.
The Seychelles is an archipelago located in the western part of the Indian Ocean, and consists of 115 islands surrounded by white sandy beaches. Seventy-six of these islands are coral and the rest are granite. The main portion of the islands is located just south of the equator allowing it a favorable climate and also situates it in a zone free of cyclones. Most of the islands consist of verdant vegetation and serve as rookeries for a large bird population.
Seychelles is a completely integrated multi-racial nation. English, French and Creole have been the three national languages since 1981.
Although most of the service members here were anxious to go ashore to the beautiful Seychelles islands after being on board for almost two months, business had to come first.
The CJTF-HOA commander, Maj. Gen. John F. Sattler, and his staff held a luncheon for a delegation from the Seychelles. Guests included the commissioner of police, Andre Kilindo, and Susane Rose from the U.S. Consular Agency in Victoria.
The general wasn't the only one still taking care of business. Both the ship's crew and CJTF-HOA service members worked hard while at this port, according to Petty Officer 2nd Class Ronald D. Virgin.
"We picked up mail, cargo freight with spare parts and worked security around the clock," said the Pensacola, Fla. native.
Small boats were used to patrol the waters surrounding the ship since it was anchored approximately three miles out from shore, and they were also used for taxis. The CJTF-HOA security detachment patrolled the main deck of the ship keeping their eyes open for anything suspicious.
Beach and shore patrol teams were also on the lookout to make sure everything ran smoothly, and that everyone had a safe, enjoyable time.
After business was taken care of it was time to check out the island. The Seychelles seemed to have something for everybody.
In downtown Victoria, service members enjoyed the gift shops and local eateries. Others enjoyed the hotels, which usually included live music and casinos, and overnight liberty. For those who were just looking to get away from all the hustle and bustle, the sandy beaches had exactly what they were looking for. Warm weather, beautiful water and the chance to snorkel, dive, and paraglide gave the service members time to relax and get away from the monotony of ship life.
To keep the competitive spirit alive while at port, Maj. Craig P. Lambert organized an eight kilometer race with approximately 20 runners participating, including Sattler and the CJTF-HOA sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Joseph M. Morgan.
Lt. Col. Michael S. Palermo crossed the line first in the men's category, and Maj. Diane E. Lizotte was first in the women's.
"I didn't win, but it was still nice to be the first enlisted member to finish the run," said Sgt. Michael R. Schmidlkofer, who amazingly finished fourth after standing beach watch until 6 a.m. "The heat made it very tough, but it was still fun," said the Riverdale, Ga. native.
After a much-needed break, the ship pulled out Feb. 1 and headed back to the CJTF-HOA area of operation to continue their mission in the war against terrorism.