By Seaman Apprentice Jonathan J. Perez

Three-time Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas is a Force Behind the ForcesSM after her recent USO tour to Guam and Hawaii in January. Douglas, a Virginia native who won two golds in London in 2012 and another at the Rio Games in 2016, traveled to the Pacific to show support for service members and their military families.

In Guam, Douglas jumped at the opportunity to tour USS Asheville, Guam’s newest submarine. Capt. Paul Pampuro, Asheville’s commanding officer, greeted the gymnast upon her arrival.

“It’s a huge honor just being able to come out here [to tour Asheville] and for everyone to welcome me with open arms,” said Douglas.

Lt. j.g. Caleb Mazzola, a junior officer assigned to Asheville, led the tour and discussed the capabilities of the submarine as they walked topside before heading into the submarine’s control room, living quarters, torpedo room, machinery room and mess decks. 

Douglas was asked to be the first signature on a torpedo hoist side bar in Asheville’s torpedo room. The side bar will be signed by the submarine’s crew then preserved with a clear coat of paint, becoming a part of the boat’s heritage until its decommissioning.

“It’s definitely amazing to see everything behind the scenes and meet a lot of the [sailors],” said Douglas. “I appreciate the military so much.”

Navy Lt. j.g. Caleb Mazzola shows Gabby Douglas the Vertical Launch Systems (VLS) from the sail of the Asheville.
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Navy Lt. j.g. Caleb Mazzola shows Gabby Douglas the Vertical Launch Systems (VLS) from the sail of the Asheville.

Three-time Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas is a Force Behind the Forces after her recent USO tour to Guam and Hawaii in January.
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Three-time Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas is a Force Behind the Forces after her recent USO tour to Guam and Hawaii in January.

Three-time Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas is a Force Behind the Forces after her recent USO tour to Guam and Hawaii in January.
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Three-time Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas is a Force Behind the Forces after her recent USO tour to Guam and Hawaii in January.

Three-time Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas is a Force Behind the Forces after her recent USO tour to Guam and Hawaii in January.
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Three-time Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas is a Force Behind the Forces after her recent USO tour to Guam and Hawaii in January.

The gymnast posed for photographs and signed autographs with sailors and family members before leaving the pier. 

“My daughter Justice practices ballet, but she’s seen Gabby Douglas on TV,” said Fire Control Technician 2nd Class Pablo Flores, a sailor assigned to Asheville. “I was able to get a signed picture from her before she left the boat, I can’t wait to take it home. I’m sure my daughter will be very happy when she sees it.”

Douglas began her USO tour in Guam and finished her tour in Hawaii, visiting the new USO center on Schofield Barracks and Marine Corps Base Hawaii, among others. She has close ties with the military, as her father, grandfather and grandmother served in the Air National Guard.

You can send a message of support and thanks directly to service members via the USO’s Campaign to Connect. Your messages will appear on screens at USO locations around the world.