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Wednesday, April 16

Bonhomme Richard crew relishes beer day

By David Brown | Military Times

ABOARD THE USS BONHOMME RICHARD - If Homer Simpson were on this ship in the northern Persian Gulf, he'd have one thing to say: "Mmmmmmmmmm ... deployment beer."

This week, the crew took a rest and popped open some frosty cold ones. It's a pleasure normally forbidden in the Navy, but one that's appearing more often as ships extend their deployments.

Ships have ``beer days'' every time they log 45 days under way without a port visit. This crew left Guam on Feb. 9. Forty-five days later, the United States was one week into the war with Iraq - a bad time to be tipsy. But now that operations have slowed, the crew was allowed to savor two glasses of Budweiser or Miller Lite on Sunday, 63 days since the last port call.

``On my first deployment, we were under way for 28 days at the most,'' said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Timothy Hanson, of Reno, Nev. ``I never thought I'd see anything like a beer day.''

Last year, during Operation Enduring Freedom, the ship went 88 days without a port visit, and deployed longer than six months.

Hanson, who has pulled his last three deployments with this ship, remembers the groans last year as the ship headed east toward the 7th Fleet area of responsibility - the point at which they couldn't be called back into the war zone. Within hours of the water boundary, the ship was told to return to the North Arabian Sea.

For reveille every morning, the ship would play Sonny and Cher's ``I Got You Babe,'' a tribute to the film ``Groundhog Day,'' in which Bill Murray relives the same day over and over.

Although the Kitty Hawk and Constellation strike groups are leaving the area, the Bonhomme Richard hasn't been told when it can expect to start heading home, said Capt. Jon Berg-Johnsen, the ship's commanding officer.

This week he had to tell the crew that its next port visit will be delayed 10 days.

``It's all right. We've only been out to sea for about 60 days. It's cool,'' said Aviation Boatswain's Mate Herbert Patriarca, of San Jose, Calif.

He also took part in beer day this week, not minding that the choice of beer was either domestic or domestic.

``At sea, any kind of beer is good.''