SAN FRANCISCO -- Maryo Mogannam was one of about a dozen lucky guests who got the chance to be the first civilians to welcome service members to San Francisco Fleet Week Sunday morning.
"I was so impressed. Most of them are young enough to be my grandchild," said Mogannam.
The annual fly out which kicks off Fleet Week every year gives participants the opportunity to ride in a military helicopter, land on a ship and tour it, all while that ship is making its way into port.
"The helicopter ride was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. But I think more lasting was just seeing all these people and personnel. And everyone I spoke to had a skill that transcends into civilian businesses," he explained.
Mogannam is the president and co-founder of Avenue Greenlight, an organization that provides funding to local merchant organizations and community groups. He has been involved in Fleet Week for years, but this was the first year he got to participate in the fly out.
"There is a bit of a disconnect sometimes between people's perception of what the military is and what the military really is and what the people are in the military because they are us," said Mogannam.
The group participating in this year's fly out was made up of local community leaders, first responders, educators and emergency managers.
Organizers of the flight say one of this program's main goals is to not only educate civilian leaders on the inner workings of a military ship, but also to give them a better idea of how the military can assist in the case of a local emergency.
"And at the same time, the military is learning about what are the organizational setups are of the civilian disaster response community. Such that if in the event of a disaster, you're not handing business cards out in the disaster. You already know who each other are," said San Francisco Fleet Week Executive Director Lewis Loeven.
Mogannam said learning about the ship's capabilities and seeing it in action was amazing. He also noted it was comforting to see firsthand what type of federal assistance is available in a worst case scenario situation.
"We're an earthquake country, we have fires galore. If a disaster ever hit San Francisco, it's nice to know that we have the military as a backup to bring us assistance because we are a global village," said Mogannam.
The USS John P Murtha will be docked in San Francisco all week. Tours are available to the public and thousands of local residents and visitors to the Bay Area are expected to take advantage.
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