Aboard USS KITTY HAWK, Arabian Gulf -- After two and a half weeks at sea since their last port visit to Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates, USS KITTY HAWK (CV 63) and embarked Carrier Air Wing 5 Sailors were eagerly looking forward to a four-day port visit to Bahrain. Already accustomed to the Arabian Gulf heat, Sailors didn't have to look far to find a good time.

As always, HAWK's Morale, Welfare and Recreation division had a variety of tours available to keep Sailors entertained. Vans left the U.S. administrative support unit in Bahrain bound for destinations such as burial mounds from 2000 B.C., camel farms, laser tag, pearl diving and horseback riding.

"I was quite surprised by the condition of the horses," said Petty Officer 2nd class Jay Manzano of HAWK's photo lab. Manzano, from Santa Monica, Calif., learned to ride horses in high school, but hadn't ridden in more than five years. "They were easy to handle, and they had some spirit," he said.

Manzano chose the horseback riding tour for the opportunity to ride genuine Arabian horses. But there was more to the tour than just the horse stables. Manzano's group also visited a camel farm, a weaving village and an ancient fort, the site of an ongoing archaeological dig. "There were diggers onsite actually excavating a wall right in front of us," Manzano related. "It was like walking into an episode from the learning channel."

Plenty of crewmembers opted for their own exploring, often with rewarding results. Petty Officer 2nd class (SW) Mark Gegantoca, of HAWK's print shop, visited an off-the-beaten track Indian restaurant on the recommendation of a shipmate who had lived in Bahrain for several years. "The food was great and inexpensive, but it was spicy," said Gegantoca. "I thought I was going to choke to death when I accidentally ate a chili pepper that was hidden in my food."

While others were hitting the restaurants or trolling the souqs for the perfect oriental rug, 40 HAWK/5 Sailors decided to devote a day of their liberty to help renovate a local hospital. Spearheaded by HAWK's chaplain department, the group visited the American Mission Hospital in Manama to assist in a number of repair and beautification projects.

To avoid the sweltering afternoon heat, the Sailors departed for the hospital at 6:30 a.m. and worked until the early afternoon. They stripped weathered paint from the hospital's exterior and added a fresh coat, installed several donated air conditioning units and helped with an on-going landscaping project at the entrance of the hospital.

"We had a lot more volunteers than we expected," said Lt. Cmdr. Chin Van Dang, KITTY HAWK's Catholic chaplain. "We were able to break them into six groups and accomplish a lot more than we'd planned. It was very hot, but everyone enjoyed the work," said Dang, a Vietnam native.

According to Master Chief Petty Officer (AW/SW) Hector Escajeda, personnel leading chief petty officer, the strong turnout and high spirits of the volunteers made the day a success.

"It helped having all those people," said Escajeda, who is from Bayard, N.M. "We finished every project the hospital administrators had set aside for us."

While volunteers sweated it out, the jocks of HAWK/5 took advantage of the perfect weather to engage local teams in some friendly play. HAWK's varsity basketball team won all four of their games, battling the administrative support unit team, KITTY HAWK's rebel team, and a visiting Seabee team at the administrative support unit gymnasium.

The KITTY HAWK "Hustlers" softball team lived up to their name by claiming second place out of eight teams in a single-elimination tournament. "The whole team played well," said Petty Officer 3rd class Gino Selaya, of Los Angeles, Calif., who works in air department's V-4 division. "We had some guys make a few double plays and some outstanding catches."

The Lady Hawk softball team played the Female Administrative Support Unit team twice in one day, losing the first game, but picking up the second.

"Everyone did an excellent job. Petty Officer 3rd class Angie Elting, of engineering's P-3 division, hit an inside-the-park home run and Lt. Cmdr. Barbara Coder of operations department threw good pitches," Petty Officer 3rd class Neilsa Elizondo, of air department's V-4 division. Elizondo is from Houston, Texas.

KITTY HAWK Sailors were also active on the soccer pitch. The "Dirty Birds" of KITTY HAWK's soccer united won one game against administrative support unit and lost one against a British expatriate team. HAWK's rugby team barely lost one intense game against the Bahrain rugby club, a mixture of local Arab and British players.

Finally, every Sailor on liberty passed through the administrative support unit, with many finding the free activities sponsored by the ship's Morale, Welfare and Recreation too good to pass up.

The base movie theater played free movies the duration of the port visit, and a live band entertained hundreds of Sailors with nightly concerts. HAWK's food services division provided free burgers on the pier, and the base pool was open free of charge for everyone.

"It felt so good to swim again," said Seaman Recruit Renaldo Isaac, a New Orleans, La. native who works in HAWK's food services division. "It was a great way to cool off. They really rolled out the carpet for us."

USS KITTY HAWK is America's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier, operating from Yokosuka, Japan. Accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS CHANCELLORSVILLE (CG 62) and the guided missile destroyer CURTIS WILBUR (DDG 54), KITTY HAWK is participating in Operation Southern Watch in the Arabian Gulf.