By USS John C. Stennis Public Affairs

USS JOHN C. STENNIS (At Sea) – With less than 500 residents, the village of Holland Patent may not look like much on a map, but it is more than the sum of its population.
It is more than its .5 square mile radius or the land grant for which it was named. For the commander of the John C. Stennis Strike Group, the small village in upstate New York is simply, and forever, home.

When fully manned, the John C. Stennis Strike Group has a population of more than 7,500 men and women. That is more than 15 times the total population of Rear Adm. Ron Boxall’s hometown, but Boxall credits his village with teaching him lessons he uses daily.

“Growing up in a small town helped shaped who I am today,” said Boxall. “It sounds contradictory, but when you grow up in a small town you learn to meet a lot of people. You have to learn how to not only get along with everyone but also how to motivate them.”

Attending Pennsylvania State University on a four-year Navy ROTC scholarship, Boxall motivated himself through his interest in the recently added computer science degree. It was the first year Penn State offered the curriculum and Boxall was hooked.

“I was definitely passionate about computer science,” said Boxall. “I remember my friend’s mother had a computer, and another friend of mine and I used to program it. I thought, ‘this is definitely the wave of the future’ and it drove me to learn about the field.”

After he graduated, Boxall was commissioned as a pilot but switched to the surface warfare community due to medical reasons. It was as a SWO where his computer science background proved beneficial.

“The great thing about a general science degree is that it gave me a broad basis of science knowledge,” he said. “Computers are a lot different now than when I started, but the logic thought train is very similar. So when I switched to the surface warfare side I naturally drifted to combat systems.”

Since joining the Navy in 1984, Boxall has served in various commands, but his success as commander of two Aegis ships, the cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) and the destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64), sticks out because it reminds him of his lessons learned at home.

“I learned that my job as a commander was less about Aegis and combat systems and more about the people,” said Boxall. “It goes back to what I learned growing up in Holland Patent. You don’t have the opportunity in a small town to pick who lives there, and you don’t have the opportunity on a ship to pick who shows up, so you have to communicate and learn what motivates people.”

He is no longer the same young man in a small town or in command of Aegis ships, but Boxall said he intends to bring the same small-town mentality to the John C. Stennis Strike Group.

“Integration of a strike group is a very complex thing,” said Boxall. “You have incredibly modern technology, but a lot of it is developed in stovepipe. My job is to get everyone talking, to have everyone understand what each other needs and to try to communicate that up and down the chain of command.”

As the commander of Stennis’ strike group, Boxall leads Sailors aboard one aircraft carrier, two cruisers, eight destroyers and more than 60 aircraft from 10 different squadrons. With such a large command, accomplishing any single mission is challenging yet Boxall continues to focus on the human element.

“If you worry about what your people need to be successful, then they will work very hard for you,” said Boxall. “I value the opinions of our Sailors and if a decision is made that does not sit well with your enlisted, then it does not sit well with me.”

From a small town to a large command, Boxall has stayed true to the values and lesson learned in Holland Patent. In the end, it starts with people.

Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christian B. Martinez

BREMERTON, Wash. – As a young boy growing up in upstate New York, Jonathan Ciecko had no idea he would someday become the leading afloat fitness and recreation specialist for one of the most powerful warships in the world.

“I love the job because it gives me satisfaction knowing that I am making a difference in Sailors’ lives,” said Ciecko. “Giving them positive motivation, encouragement and the tools to achieve their personal goals is truly a great feeling.”

Ciecko graduated from East Carolina University with a degree in exercise science. Due to a combination of opportunity and sheer luck, he acquired an internship at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam in Hawaii.

“I was really stoked to receive an internship in Hawaii and then later get hired as a recreation assistant with the Army at Schofield Barracks health and fitness center,” said Ciecko. “This experience was my first encounter with conducting group physical training session for our nation’s service members.”

On base he lead a variety of fitness classes, including spin lessons, circuit training and kickboxing. He also helped organize special events like monthly 5K runs and holiday concerts.

One day, a realization hit Ciecko. It was about time to take his training to the next level and aim for a full-time position. At the time he was between two jobs, working both at the recreation center on base and a local gym off base.

Opportunity struck again. He accepted a job offer as a fitness specialist, his first position working for the Navy and his last before becoming part of the Stennis family. He chose the job because it was a chance to travel and witness naval operations firsthand, he said.

“I became accustomed with the Navy’s way of doing things,” said Ciecko. “I was trained in running fitness enhancement program classes and learning the Navy’s physical readiness training schedule.”

After a few years of offering his support and fitness knowledge, it was time for Ciecko to bid farewell to the island he called home and move on to bigger things.

“I told myself that before the age of 30, I wanted to have managerial or supervisory experience to challenge myself,” he said. “Being on the carrier has given me more experience than I would’ve received if I stayed at my old job.”

Soon after he applied online for an afloat fitness specialist position with the description “duty station: worldwide,” Ciecko checked aboard Stennis. Both excited and nervous, he had a master plan for the Sailors he would be walking the ship’s deck plates with every day.

“When I first met him [Ciecko], I could tell he knew what he wanted to accomplish,” said Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Eric Taylor, leading petty officer of the Morale, Welfare and Recreation department, from Mansfield, Ohio. “He already has a schedule of fitness events for Sailors to enjoy, including yoga, zumba, spin and TRX classes.”

As Stennis’ Fit Boss, Ciecko will be expected to fulfill a range of responsibilities, such as teaching classes, maintaining gym equipment and providing dietary advice.

“I am definitely looking forward to working with Stennis Sailors and giving them what they want,” he said. “That is what the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Department is for, keeping you guys happy. That is the reason I am here.”

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PACIFIC OCEAN – Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 successfully completed flight deck certification Dec. 12, after a 16-month Docking Planned Incremental Availability (DPIA) period.

Representatives from each CVW9 squadron embarked aboard Stennis Dec. 5 to perform aircraft launch and recovery operations over the course of three days.

Flight deck certification started about 120 days before this underway, said Lt. j.g. Mark Rodriguez, Stennis’ flight deck officer. “We have to be certified to launch and recover aircraft by the Commander of Naval Air Forces handling team prior to conducting flight operations.”

The certification was the first time that Stennis and CVW9 operated together since deploying in 2013.

“It’s been a good experience getting familiar with shipboard life again,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 1st Class Wendell Ramos of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14. “It’s important to build that relationship between the air wing and ship.”

For many of Stennis’ and CVW9’s personnel, this underway was their first time to see flight operations.

“It’s scary but exciting at the same time,” said Logistics Specialist Seaman Edward Mitchell, from Fayetteville, N.C. “There [are] propellers spinning, planes taking off and landing, things that you normally only see in movies.”

Stennis and CVW9 performed 160 launch and recoveries during day and night operations throughout the certification process.

“The purpose of flight deck certification is to make sure all the pieces fall in together,” said Lt. j.g. Mark Trask, an aviator assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14. “The equipment, personnel, catapults and carrier air traffic control have to be certified and ready to launch and recover aircraft in support of future air missions.”

Completing flight deck qualifications brings Stennis one step closer to becoming fully combat ready.

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Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christian B. Martinez

PACIFIC OCEAN – The catapult was ready for launch. The F/A-18E Super Hornet pilot saluted and the aircraft propelled off the flight deck, into the sky. It was a process Capt. Stuart Baker had repeated countless times throughout his 25 years in the U.S. Navy, but today his landing would be different. Today, his landing would make him a member of a small and distinguished group of naval aviators.

Baker, the commanding officer of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, accomplished his 1,000th carrier-arrested landing, or trap, aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), Dec. 11, in an aircraft from the Vigilantes of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151.

“This accomplishment has never been about me,” said Baker, from Wausau, Wis. “There are so many people over the past 25 years who worked hard to get every plane I flew airborne and to come back safely. Those are the guys who made it all happen.”

During his career, Baker accumulated over 4,000 flight hours flying in several different types of aircraft. In flight school he learned to fly the T-34 single-engine propeller Mentor and T-2 Buckeye jet. He flew the A-4 Skyhawk, before piloting the F/A-18A, F/A-18C and F/A-18E aircraft which would define his roles in operations Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

“I think it is an awesome milestone for any Naval pilot to achieve,” said Operations Specialist 2nd Class Martin Vories, from Rialto, Calif. “It’s not easy to fly a multimillion dollar aircraft onto a moving runway a 1,000 times.”

With his latest achievement complete, Baker will finish his tour with CVW9 soon.

“Actions speak louder than words,” said Baker. “When I first joined, I always told myself I would quit the Navy once it stopped being fun. Twenty-five years and a 1,000 traps later, here I am. It never stopped.”

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Story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jonathan Jiang

BREMERTON, Wash. – ‘Tis the holiday season and Sailors stationed aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) joined local volunteers in decorating downtown Bremerton during a community relations (COMREL) event last week.

Instead of sleeping in on a Saturday, 12 Sailors met with Carlos Jara, co-owner of Toro Lounge and president of the Downtown Bremerton Association, on a Saturday morning to hang Christmas lights along Pacific Avenue and 4th Street.

“I think it’s really good to give back to the community,” said Chief Electronics Technician David Corbin, from Chicago. “It betters the community, it betters ourselves and it betters the command.”

While electrical plugs are installed next to the trees, it is up to Bremerton locals to decorate the streets.

“In some communities people expect the city to do everything for them, but we’re not like that,” said Jara. “If you want things done in your community, you have to take ownership.”

For the past four years Jara has helped organize decorating the city.

“I’ve put the call out for volunteers before,” said Jara, “but we didn’t get much participation until I reached out to the Stennis crew about coming out and helping us.”

Participating in the event was another way for Sailors to enjoy the holidays away from home.

“We can’t have a Christmas tree in the barracks so this is the closest thing,” said Aviation Ordnance Airman Destiny Battle, from Victorville, Calif. “Decorating things gets me in the Christmas spirit.”

Anyone interested in past and future COMRELs can contact Religious Programs Specialist 1st Class Zachary Muncrief at his command e-mail,

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Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christian B. Martinez

BREMERTON, Wash. – Two Sailors stationed aboard USS John C. Stennis played for the Navy Women’s Basketball Team in the Armed Forces Championship at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Nov. 13.

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Leanda Martinez, from San Antonio, and Gunner’s Mate Seaman Courtney Jackson, from Atlanta, were selected after completing a highly competitive application process.

“It was a process of elimination,” said Martinez. “Twenty women are chosen from all the Navywide applicants solely based on past basketball experience and history. Only twelve were picked after two weeks of tryouts.”

Both Sailors flew to San Diego and spent countless hours practicing drills and honing their basketball skills on the court.

“Training was a full-time job,” said Martinez. “It had been a long time since I worked out that much. Some days it became difficult to walk after practice.”

Not every day was dedicated to training, however. A meet and greet was arranged where women across the fleet spoke about the passion that connected them.

“It was amazing to meet so many people with different outlooks within the Navy,” said Jackson. “I met some really cool people who shared their experiences with me.”

After several weeks of training, the newly-formed team traveled to Camp Pendleton to compete against the U.S. Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard women’s basketball teams. Although the team did not finish in first place, both Stennis players said they were honored to represent the Navy on a national level.

“This experience has been my best time in the Navy so far,” said Jackson. “I was so happy when I was picked, and I am looking forward to representing the Navy in the future.”

Jackson will continue sharing her basketball expertise as she represents the U.S. Armed Forces Women’s Basketball Team, which is comprised of teammembers selected from each service branch. The team will compete next year at the 2015 Conseil International du Sport Militare, or Military World Championship.

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Story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Andrew P. Holmes

BREMERTON, Wash. – Sailors aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) began preparations for a Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) scheduled to take place July 2015.

INSURV is a congressionally-mandated inspection of Navy ships that occurs every three to six years to ensure ships are fit to conduct sustained combat operations. An INSURV Preparation and Assist Team visited Nov. 17 for the first of four preparatory inspections designed to provide technical advice.

“INSURV is important to the Navy because taxpayers pay for all naval vessels,” said Lt. Cmdr. Todd Nelson, Stennis’ INSURV coordinator. “We have an obligation to ensure aircraft carriers last 50 years and the public needs to know that Sailors are taking care of the ship properly.”

INSURV is an inspection of all equipment aboard the ship, from radar systems to damage control gear to light fixtures. The INSURV Preparation and Assist Team is here to ensure equipment is functional and deficient equipment is documented as an extension of the ship’s material maintenance management (3M) program.

“INSURV is a test of our 3M program and our culture of material readiness,” said Nelson. “You can’t prepare for INSURV six months before the inspection, it’s constant, we can’t expect to be ready if we don’t prepare.”

The inspectors will go through every space on the ship so every member of the crew is responsible for success during INSURV.

“It’s going to take every member of the crew to pass, regardless of department,” said Lt. Cmdr. Loren Nichols, Stennis’ INSURV training coordinator. “It’s going to be long hours of preparation and maintenance, because putting in a trouble call isn’t enough. We have to ensure equipment can operate correctly, and when we buy into that thought process INSURV will become easier.”

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Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Patrick Enright

BREMERTON, Wash. – While the majority of those who serve aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) do so as a junior Sailor, as a member of the chief’s mess or as a commissioned officer, very few have the opportunity to experience all three.

In his six years aboard Stennis, Lt. j.g. Jarrod Hamby, from Jonesboro, Ark., has worn the hat of a leading petty officer (LPO), leading chief petty officer (LCPO), department leading chief petty officer divisional officer (DIVO) and when necessary head of department. He has served under four Commanding Officers (CO), five Executive Officers (XO) and four Command Master Chiefs. He began his time here wearing crows, but rose to anchors and finally bars. Hamby is a Sailor who has lived all sides of Stennis.

Hamby decided to join the military as a junior in high school. Though he first set his sights on the Army, a Navy recruiter talked him into becoming a Sailor.

“I wanted to travel,” said Hamby. “I wanted to see the world outside of Arkansas.”

Hamby raised his right hand on August 28, 2000 to begin his career as a Yeoman Recruit.

His first duty station was aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). He frequently found himself butting heads with his LPO. Part of his motivation to advance during this time was to prove to his LPO that he was capable of succeeding.

“Early on, I was dead set on getting out of the Navy after my first tour, but over time I really started liking my job,” said Hamby. “I was good at it too, which made me like it even more.”

In September 2004, when it was time once again to choose orders, Hamby found himself in Naval Station Pearl Harbor.

His early aspirations to become an officer began during this time when his administrative officer, Lieutenant Thomas Miller, educated him on the Limited Duty Officer (LDO) program. Though he was not eligible at the time, having only served four years, Hamby had his sights set on the goal of becoming a commissioned officer.

Hamby reported to the Stennis on October 2, 2007 as a Yeoman First Class.

During this time he served as the LPO and later LCPO of the CO/XO administration division.

“I loved training all of the junior yeomen on the ship,” said Hamby. “That tour taught me a lot about leadership and developing young Sailors.”

As a first class, Hamby submitted an LDO package, but was not accepted. Shortly after, in September 2009, he became a chief petty officer.

“I made chief in nine years, and I had to consider how high I wanted to go in the Navy,” said Hamby. “I wanted to get some experience as a chief before putting in a new package, so I made up my mind that I was going to apply the next year.”

Just before the end of his first tour on Stennis in 2010, Hamby applied for the LDO program once again. This time around, he was selected as the number-one overall candidate.

After a brief induction in Newport, Rhode Island, Hamby received his commissioning on November 1, 2011. He returned to Stennis on New Year’s Day 2012, this time as an administrative officer.

“Coming back was very surreal to me,” said Hamby. “It felt as if I had never left this place. There were plenty of familiar faces, especially in the chief’s mess.”

Today, Hamby works as the ship’s secretary and the DIVO for CO/XO administration division.

“I am doing the job that my DIVO had when I first arrived to this command,” said Hamby. “I have the opportunity to repeat the successes I saw back then and improve areas I knew I could do better.”

Hamby credits his success to hard work, enjoying the job he did each day and learning lessons from his mentors.

“I have had many mentors,” said Hamby. “I credit them for a lot of the success that I have had. I believe you can learn something from everyone.”

Hamby’s advice to junior Sailors looking to follow a similar path is to study hard for advancement exams, tackle the tough jobs that nobody else is willing to do and take advantage of the tuition assistance program. He says that anyone thinking of applying for an officer program should explore all of the options available to them thoroughly.

Few Sailors have had an experience aboard Stennis quite like Hamby’s. In May of 2015, his time will once again draw to an end, and he will transfer to Navy Region Hawaii. His varied career aboard Stennis serves as an example for junior Sailors hoping to maximize their Navy experience.


Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christian B. Martinez

BREMERTON, Wash. – Two Sailors listened attentively beneath the mast of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) for the whistle that would symbolize the end of one journey and the beginning of a new one.

A shrill blast pierced the air on the morning of Nov. 5, as both Sailors raised the American flag on the ship’s mast for the first time in over a year. Stennis was ready to return to sea, the last phase of her docking planned incremental availability (DPIA) period. After a successful six-day sea trial, the ship returned to homeport in Bremerton, Wash. Nov.10 fully certified as a Naval operational asset.

The aircraft carrier had been stationed at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS) and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton for the past 16 months, where it received upgrades to its firefighting, navigation, weapons and combat systems. Major evolutions during DPIA ranged from the removal and maintenance of Stennis’ rudder and propellers during dry dock to the implementation of the Consolidated Afloat Network Enterprise Services (CANES) system. In total, the project comprised over 92,000 man hours.

“A monumental amount of work has been accomplished since we began DPIA in June 2013,” said Capt. Michael Wettlaufer, Stennis’ commanding officer. “After 16 months of maintenance, the Stennis and PSNS team is returning this great ship to the fleet. Our success is founded on absolute commitment to a common goal of operation readiness.”

In addition to renovations, Stennis organized and applied command-wide training, general knowledge tests and drills for the crew in order to meet fast cruise and underway deadlines. It was all part of certifying ship’s crew for their long-awaited sea trials.

“In the beginning we were a little unorganized,” said Seaman Corey Stinson, from Murfreesboro, Tenn. “But before long, we were setting zones faster, patching pipes and putting out simulated fires more efficiently because of our improved teamwork.”

During sea trials, Stennis tested its equipment and emergency protocols, performing high-power turns, running damage control drills and acclimating new crewmembers to life at sea.
“Sea trials is the culmination of DPIA,” said Lt. Cmdr. Todd Nelson, from Bremerton, Wash. “It is the capstone that will test all the work performed on the ship, from main engine work to steam valves and catapults, to ensure everything is fully operational.”

Keeping true to its motto, Stennis will continue looking ahead as it tackles future developments in the upcoming months. These evolutions include certifying the carrier’s flight deck so that it can support Carrier Air Wing 9 and other West Coast squadrons, as well as coordinated training with the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group in group sails off the West Coast. Before deployment, Stennis must also carry out an extended training period called “workups” and complete a thorough ship inspection and survey evaluation.

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Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lauren Howes

BREMERTON, Wash. – While underway conducting sea trials, USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) completed a full test of all aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) systems, Nov. 7-10.

“Completing our AFFF certification is essential to the mission,” said Master Chief Damage Controlman Michael MacDonald, from Port Orchard, Wash. “Without the certification we could not have aircraft onboard.”

The tests are required for the congressionally-mandated material inspection by the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) team. INSURV, typically held every 30 months, is a thorough, all-encompassing inspection of nearly every aspect of a Navy vessel in terms of material, maintenance and safety.

“During DPIA, engineering department worked with the Carrier Engineering Maintenance Assist Team and combat systems department to troubleshoot all AFFF systems to ensure we were ready for the test,” said MacDonald.

Once the ship was underway, Stennis Sailors discharged the AFFF sprinkler system over more than 1,000 feet throughout the flight deck and hangar bays.

AFFF, a synthetic foam consisting of 94 parts water, is used in combating class “Bravo” fires, or fuel fires in reactor and engineering spaces, as well as the hangar bay and flight deck.

“We train for scenarios in which we would use AFFF, but this is the first time I have ever actually seen the system in use,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Chelsea Dell, from Altoona, Pa. “It was really cool being a part of the training since it is something that not many Sailors get to see.”

After a full day of testing the 13 groups of hangar bay sprinklers, the rest of the week was spent testing the other systems throughout the ship, including 60 hose reels, 21 flight deck zones, two emergency diesel spaces, three JP-5 pump rooms, nine weapons elevators, and four propulsion space sprinkler systems.

Stennis, the flagship of the John C. Stennis Strike Group, completed sea trials Nov. 10.

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