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

BREMERTON, Wash. – Sailors stationed aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and throughout the Northwest region participated in Bremerton’s 67th Annual Armed Forces Day Parade May 16.

Capt. Kavon Hakimzadeh, Stennis’ executive officer, and Stennis’ Sailor of the Year Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Isiah M. Burns, rode alongside past and present servicemembers in honor of the U.S. military and the patriotic service given in support of the country.

“I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of patriotism from the Bremerton and Kitsap County communities,” said Hakimzadeh. “The entire parade route was lined with people. It’s great to live in such a military friendly area, and the men and women serving our country are proud to be members of the community.”

The Bremerton Chamber of Commerce organized the parade, which included more than 150 entries. Participants ranged from active-duty military members, veterans, state and local officials, high school marching bands and community leaders.

“It is a great experience; every year I do it,” said Frank Gentile, Bremerton Chamber of Commerce member and 20-year resident. “Sometimes military servicemembers can be taken for granted, so it is incredible to have this chance to give them a once-a-year public thank you.”

Held in downtown Bremerton, the parade is the largest and longest running Armed Forces Day Parade in the nation. According to the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce website, the annual attendance ranges from 25,000 to 30,000 people from Washington, with entries from as far away as Oregon and Spokane.

“It goes a long way to see this kind of support from a community that always backs you up,” said Burns, from Philadelphia. “It’s an honor for my wife and I to be part of this parade and reminds me that I am nothing without the support of my friends and family back home.”

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Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Jiang

BREMERTON, Wash. – Two Stennis Sailors were among ten presenters who shared their ideas on improving the Navy with other military and civilian personnel during Athena Northwest 3.0 on Naval Base Kitsap May 15.

Athena Project Northwest provides a forum for Sailors and Department of Defense personnel in the Pacific Northwest to share innovative ideas for improving the Navy.

“The Athena Project demonstrates what’s possible when someone believes that they can make a change, that they can make a difference,” said Lt. Cmdr. Drew Barker. “What we want is to build that next tier of idea champions, people who believe in their ideas and then take them forward to make a positive difference.”

Presenters set up display tables around the room and gave their pitches in a job-fair format. The audience split up into smaller groups and visited each presenter for five-minute explanations followed by two-minute question and answer sessions. Afterward they voted for the pitch they liked best.

Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Bree Frenette, from Flagstaff, Ariz., pitched a Navy e-learning mobile application, and Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) 3rd Class Jonte Johnson, presented an idea for networking and distinguished visitors.

“Even if my idea doesn’t get developed, it felt good to be heard,” said Frenette. “It felt good that you could have something happen.”

The finalists addressed the audience one last time before they made their final decision on the recipient of the Admiral Sims Award for Intellectual Courage and the support of a small functional team to help develop the winner’s idea further.

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) 3rd Class John Broussard, from USS Nimitz (CVN 68), took home the Admiral Sims Award with his idea for ships to recycle trash while in port.

While there can be only one award recipient, the event is a good opportunity for Navy personnel to network with civilian professionals.

“All the ideas have promise.” said Alan Leong, a lecturer at the University of Washington and senior research analyst at BioWatch News, who attended the event. “The important thing is that they get traction, movement and feedback so that [the presenters] get more ideas for how to improve them and how to articulate them better.”
Barker and Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) 3rd Class Benjamin Brehm heard about the USS Benfold (DDG 65) organizing the first Athena Project event in San Diego and thought it could benefit their local commands. They organized the first Athena Project event in the Northwest region, Athena Northwest 1.0, in November 2014.

“I saw a lot of people in the Navy that needed to know that if they have an issue with their job, if they have something that can be improved in the way they do things, their voices are hugely advantageous,” said Brehm. “It’s the guy with the wrench in his hand that’s going to be able to tell you what’s wrong about the wrench.”

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

PACIFIC OCEAN – Bouyant, unwieldy bodies collided against each other amid a chorus of shouts and cheers during the Sumo My Chief Petty Officer (CPO) event aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) May 7.

The Chiefs Mess-sponsored event raised funds and gave Sailors a rare opportunity to wrestle with their chiefs.

“It’s a great way to raise morale after being on the ship for 30 days at a time,” said Information Systems Technician 3rd Class Abraham Gonzalez, from Los Angeles. “There is a lot of pent-up energy to be spent.”

Despite a smaller stature, Gonzalez was excited to challenge his own chief. He managed two rounds before losing, but that did little to dampen his overall experience.

“I did my best and got two rounds off of him, so I am proud of that,” said Gonzalez. “Just the fact that I got to sumo wrestle my chief in the first place is out of this world. I never thought I would be able to do that.”

Chiefs and their junior Sailors competed in best out of four rounds with an occasional tiebreaker. Contenders scored points when they shoved or tackled their opponents to the ground, landing on top of them as a finishing blow. Afterward both contenders required assistance to stand up, due to the bulkiness of the sumo costumes leaving them like upside-down turtles.

Sailors listened to music and comical fight commentary, enhancing the spectacle of watching their peers take on prominent chiefs from around the ship. There was no animosity from either side, just laughter and good humor every time a sumo body spiraled to the ground.

“Whether you are a blue shirt or a khaki, it is always one team, one fight,” said Chief Operations Specialist Wayne Doyle, from New Orleans. “Both parties can compete and walk away with pride. There is no ill will, and we can all joke about it and have some fun.”

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STENNIS Families and Friends,

As we head back to home port, I wanted to let you know about underway period. We completed a very successful Tailored Ship Training Availability (TSTA) during which every aspect of operating Stennis was evaluated including our operations with Carrier Air Wing NINE (CVW-9). Over 20 high-tempo days and numerous fast-paced drills across the ship, every crew member in every department showed the skills required to properly train and prepare for the next phases in our pre-deployment training cycle. Commander Naval Air Forces and Afloat Training Group experts were impressed with our progress and we were given a “Final Evaluated Problem (FEP)” 2 days early. During this two-day event, your Sailors performed admirably as they demonstrated our ability to manage and solve complex challenges in damage control including flooding and fires, personnel injuries, aircraft crashes and equipment damage.

Following TSTA/FEP, Carrier Strike Group THREE formed as Destroy Squadron TWENTY ONE and USS MOBILE BAY (CG 53) joined for Group Sail. Over 8 days of Group Sail, we also exercised all aspects of naval sea power with USS FREEDOM (LCS 1) and USS HIGGINS (DDG 76) during their pre-deployment certification. You can see both of those ships leading our formation in the attached photograph.

Of course, we continue to prepare for an upcoming Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV). This evaluation occurs approximately every 3-5 years and is a comprehensive look at shipboard maintenance and repair status, safety and habitability, and our ability to operate the ship as designed and outfitted. As many of you already know, INSURV preparations began prior to Sea Trials last November. This is an all hands and all departments effort both in-port and at-sea to ensure we know our ship and understand how to live in and operate her. Since this inspection occurs prior to our next major pre-deployment training evolution, we don’t have time to waste and will continue to focus on INSURV preparations and take advantage of maintenance opportunities following return to Bremerton.

All the best and see you soon,
Captain Mike Wettlaufer

Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Jiang

PACIFIC OCEAN – More than 360 Sailors participated in a 5K fun run to raise awareness for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) on the flight deck of USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), May 3.

Jonathan Ciecko, Stennis’ fitness director, and Lt. j.g. Demetrius Johnson, an aviator and SAPR representative for Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14, worked together to put on the run.

The event was originally expected to take place in April in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but was postponed due to operational scheduling conflicts.

“It wasn’t easy with flight ops and … the ship was doing a lot of evolutions,” said Ciecko. “We wanted to make sure the air wing can participate as well as ship’s company.

Despite initial troubles getting the event off the ground the event was considered a success.

“It was a great turnout,” said Johnson, “Everybody had fun. I thought it was well organized.”

Johnson reminded the participants before the event started of the cause they were running for that day. Sailors then ran eight laps around a marked path from one end of the flight deck to the next.

“It was great to get the crew out here on the flight deck, and it’s for a good cause,” said run participant, Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Brenton Blakeslee, from Mayville, N.Y. “It’s the best scenery in the world. Not everyone gets to run on the flight deck in the middle of the ocean.”

In addition to raising awareness for SAPR, the run was a good opportunity for Sailors to get some exercise.

“It’s a great way for people to get out and practice for the physical readiness test,” said Ciecko. “Just get people active.”

Ciecko is looking forward to getting more input from Sailors for future events.

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

PACIFIC OCEAN – On the flight deck, the hazards of powerful winds, jet exhaust and aircraft landings are ever present in Sailors’ minds. Among the many sounds that form the chaotic symphony on this battlefield of aviation, one stands out from the rest. A deep, rhythmic hum of dual propeller blades is heard, reminiscent of a swarm of angry bees. There is no need for Sailors to turn their heads to know that a Golden Hawk is nearby, looming over smaller aircraft with talons that can run through anything that gets too close.

Though they are not strike fighters, the E-2C Hawkeyes from the Golden Hawks of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 112 embarked aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) conduct a different class of aviation warfare.

“Put simply, we are the quarterback of the sky,” said Cmdr. Matthew Duffy, commanding officer of VAW-112 Squadron, from Kenilworth, Ill. “We are the dispatchers; we are the airborne Command and Control node. We can see it all before the fighter aircraft can see what their targets are going to be.”

Established April 20, 1967, VAW-112 progressed through two variations of aircraft before advancing into today’s E-2C Hawkeyes. Through the years, the E-2A and E-2B varieties were flown and eventually retired as upgrades to the structure, equipment and systems were made. The end result created a key player in modern battlespace management.

“We help communicate the right information to the right places and the right people,” said Lt. Xerxes Herrington, a VAW-112 pilot, from Roundhill, Va. “The data and intelligence we provide affects the entire chain of command and assists the admiral in making decisions.”
One of the methods used to collect that data is the ability of the Golden Hawk to project what it sees throughout the strike group. Known as Cooperative Engagement Capability, this technology allows the E-2C to share its radar range with Naval assets ashore and afloat, and can even be shared with other U.S. military branches during coordinated evolutions.

“We have the ability to merge the air and surface pictures of the strike group and expand its horizon,” said Herrington. “We can also create communication paths between our forward-most fighters and the warfare commanders, who need to make decisions based on what those assets are doing.”

Due to its multifaceted and complex system, the Hawkeye operates with a five person crew. There are two pilots and three navigators to manage the equipment during flight. Without constant maintenance and upkeep on that equipment, they would not be able to accomplish their primary mission.

“Aviation Electronics Technicians and Aviation Electrician’s Mates work on the wiring and troubleshoot the systems that power the signals between them,” said Master Chief Aircraft Maintenanceman Steve Hone, from Layton, Utah. “Some of them will come from other platforms and may recognize some of the equipment on the Hawkeye, but it will be on a much grander scale.”

Beyond operational application and training, there is a culture of mentorship and comraderie throughout the ranks. Pilots end meetings with a shout of “G-Hawks!” while junior Sailors learn what it means to lead and teach other crewmembers.

“There is so much on this platform you can learn about, but it is still entertaining after two and half years,” said Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Jared Schinse, from Boise, Idaho. “I know that if I continue to learn and apply these skills while teaching new Sailors, it can be a very fulfilling experience.”

The ships comprising the John C. Stennis Strike Group (JCSSG) are participating in a Group Sail exercise designed to develop coordinated capabilities.

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Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Jiang

PACIFIC OCEAN – It’s a classic American tale, immigrants coming from foreign shores to the United States in search of a better life. It’s not just something learned about in history class or seen in movies, it’s something that happens every day, even aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).

Since the events of September 11, 2001, there’s been an increased effort to expand citizenship benefits to non-citizens serving in the military. President George W. Bush signed an executive order in 2002 making non-citizen service members immediately eligible for citizenship.

Culinary Specialist Seaman Vans Saret and Personnel Specialist Seaman Wen Hao Tong weren’t U.S. citizens before joining the Navy. They were born in other countries and came to the United States under different circumstances in search of their own American dream.

Tong was born and raised amid the eclectic mix of skyscrapers and traditional red tiled buildings that make up the seaside city of Qingdao, China. After high school he decided to go to college in the United States.
“It was pretty difficult in the very beginning,” said Tong. “I had no friends, and everything was brand new.”

The plan was simple at first. Study in the U.S., get a degree and either work for an American company or go back to China.

“Things changed, obviously,” said Tong.

Back in China, it had never crossed his mind to join the military. That wasn’t the case after his first time seeing a service member in person, a uniformed soldier on his college campus. Whether it was a recruiter or an ROTC student he doesn’t remember, but it left an impression on him.

“Everything about them, their performance, the way the carried themselves, was very professional,” said Tong.

He would’ve joined right away, but at the urging of his mother, he finished college before he made his final decision. Tong’s mind, however, was already made up. For him, there were things he felt that he could learn in the military that he couldn’t at school.

While Tong was now living in a different country and was doing his college course work in another language, he ended up staying in his comfort zone and made primarily Chinese American friends. Joining the military would give him more opportunities to broaden his horizon.

“I’m living in the United States now so I should learn about the culture and the people,” said Tong.

In 2013 Tong graduated from the University of Buffalo with a Bachelor’s in economics and he went to boot camp the following year.

Saret grew up in the Philippines, in the hot, humid suburbs of San Pedro, just an hour away from the capital, Manilla.

“Growing up in the Philippines was very hard for me,” said Saret. “There was very little support for me when I was a kid, but my parents fought through all of their hardships to give me and my brother a better life.”

In the summer of 2002, when he was only 8 years old, Saret’s family moved to San Francisco at the urging of relatives.

The young Saret was delighted to come to America. His grandfather, a former U.S. soldier and a Vietnam veteran, had told him stories of his experiences there. Now Saret had the chance to see for himself.

“It was another adventure for me,” said Saret. “Everyone was really diverse, everyone was really different. I got to meet different people from different areas and learn about their cultures.”

But the transition to a new life in a foreign land didn’t go smoothly for his family. In the Philippines his father was a policeman and his mother stayed at home. In the U.S. his father had difficulty finding work due to a language barrier and his mother worked two jobs to support the family.

In 2007 his mother had an accident that put her into a coma for two years, taking Saret back to the Philippines at the start of his high school years. She passed away during Christmas of 2009.

Things didn’t get any easier from there. Saret moved around a lot, from the Philippines to Guam and finally back to the United States, all while dealing with family issues and his own grief. The Navy would provide him with a much needed source of stability.

“I wanted to do something good and change my life,” said Saret.

Joining the military wasn’t a spur of the moment thing. Part of him had always wanted to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps.

Saret went to boot camp in February 2014.

In 2009 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services established the Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative, which gives noncitizen, Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps enlistees the opportunity to naturalize after graduating basic training.

Saret and Tong’s boot camp naturalization process included the recording of their biometrics, an interview that tested their knowledge of the U.S. government and history, and swearing the Oath of Allegiance to the constitution.

“I was happy and proud that my hard work paid off,” said Tong.

Saret swore his oath in A School.

“It was a really big deal,” said Saret. “I was an immigrant for 12 years before I joined the Navy.”

Service members may have plenty of reasons for joining the military, whether it’s a sense of duty, family tradition or even for personal benefit. Whatever the reason, everyone who joins is making a pledge to protect and serve their country. Wen Hao Tong and Vans Saret made that pledge for the U.S. before they could officially call it their home.

Since 2002, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has naturalized over 102,000 service members.

PACIFIC OCEAN – Sailors aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) paused their busy schedule to remember the tragic events of the Holocaust during a ceremony in the ship’s forecastle, April 24.

The theme of the observance, organized by Stennis’ Multi-Cultural Heritage Committee, was storytelling. After an opening prayer from Lt. Cmdr. John Monahan, one of Stennis’ chaplains, Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 3rd Class Shanice Smith, the master of ceremony, introduced six Sailors who told the stories of Holocaust survivors.

Each speaker found and researched the experiences of a survivor that resonated the most with them. Then they wrote accounts of those events from the first person perspective and read them.

“It was eye-opening to look at someone’s history, what they had to do to survive and to be that person’s voice,” said Personnel Specialist 3rd Class Jason Caffey, from Corpus Christi, Texas.

Aviation Electronics Technician 1st Class Malkey Halpert, from Brooklyn, N.Y., shared a story from her childhood about her grandfather, a Holocaust survivor.

“I’ve done a lot of Holocaust trainings before, but I generally don’t tell people my family stories,” said Halpert. “I felt like it was part of something that people needed to know. It felt like it was the right time.”

She shared how she grew up in an environment where Holocaust stories were commonplace, how she uncovered her grandparents’ story of sacrifice and perseverance, and the importance of learning from the past.

“These stories we heard today are not just stories,” said Halpert. “They represent people with hopes, dreams and ambitions, many of which were destroyed before they had a chance to come to fruition.”

Following the stories, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) 2nd Class Anjessica Gabriel, from Tampa, Fla., and Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) 3rd Class Jonte Johnson, from Miami, recited an original poem about coming to terms with the tragedies of the past.

Capt. Mike Wettlaufer, Stennis’ commanding officer, offered these words in closing.

“This morning we had the opportunity to share a listening experience,” said Wettlaufer. “To have people from all different walks of life but wearing the same uniform telling the story as if it were their own was pretty powerful, and I am absolutely moved.”

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Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Jiang

PACIFIC OCEAN – Sitting at a warmly decorated table under dimmed, tinted lights amongst a thumb snapping crowd, someone could almost forget they were on the mess decks of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier underway in the Pacific Ocean. This was the setting for the Sailors aboard USS John C. Stennis who performed during a talent show April 16.

The 30 performers showcased a range of artistic backgrounds including spoken word poets, guitarists and even an opera singer.

“The show allows everybody to get away from the daily ship life and go to a place of peace whether it’s poetry, singing or however they want to express themselves,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class C. J. Knox, from Los Angeles, Stennis’ Junior Enlisted Association’s (JEA) public affairs officer.

‘Who Rocks the Mic’ was the second live performance event organized by the JEA.

“It started off with the idea of being a spoken word event,” said Knox. “Then we decided to branch out more, and it became a talent show.”

The audience had their own role to play in the show, using their applause to choose the winner. Their choice was Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Darious Dantzler, from Orlando, Fla. and a member of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14.

Dantzler wowed the crowd with his voice and a guitar borrowed at the last minute.

“We all had lives before we became Sailors,” said Dantzler. “This show gave us the chance to express some of those non-Navy related skills.”

Dantzler didn’t receive a tangible prize, but he did gain the adulation of his shipmates and the chance to perform in front of a crowd.

The event had a much larger than expected turnout. Every seat on the forward mess decks was filled and the majority of the audience had to stand packed in along the edge of the space.

“I was blown away by the numbers,” said Knox. “We’re going to have to find a bigger place.”

For more news from USS John C. Stennis visit or 74.

Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Jiang

PACIFIC OCEAN – Marley’s Ghost, an eclectic band with a strong country influence, performed for John C. Stennis Strike Group (JCSSG) Sailors as part of a variety show in USS John C. Stennis’ hangar bay April 17.

Founded in the 1980s, the five members of Marley’s Ghost, Dan Wheetman, Jon Wilcox, Mike Phelan, Ed Littlefield Jr. and Jerry Fletcher, come from various musical backgrounds. For their first carrier concert they performed songs from a range of genres, including the somber, accapella ‘Seaman’s Hymn,’ the Mardi Gras song ‘Iko Iko’ and a cover of ‘God Bless the USA.’
“We were thrilled and so excited,” said Wilcox. “It was payback for the kindness we were shown.”

In addition to the band, the show featured ventriloquist Jay Johnson and musical performances from singer-songwriter Livingston Taylor, Billy Valentine and fiddler Phil Salazar, all with introductions from the show’s emcee and comedian Dick Hardwick.

Two Stennis Sailors, Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Patrick Enright and Ship’s Serviceman Seaman Arrington Jenkins, joined the band for a rendition of ‘Shout Baby Shout,’ with Arrington on guitar and Enright on drums.

“It was an amazing blessing I received last night,” said Jenkins. “These were professional musicians we were playing with so it meant a lot that they wanted Enright and me to go up there.”

The audience joined in for the final song of the night, ‘America the Beautiful.’ Even Capt. Mike Wettlaufer, Stennis’ commanding officer, and Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, JCSSG commander, joined the performers on stage.

“We had a good time and had some good laughs,” said Information Systems Technician 3rd Class Alexander Morris, from Bossier City, La., who saw the show with Information Systems Technician 3rd Class Abraham Gonzales, from Montebello, Calif.

“We went up to the hangar bay and ended up staying for the entirety,” said Gonzales.

The performers also toured Stennis before and after the concert, seeing the crew in action on the flight deck, combat direction center, mess decks and other operational spaces.
“The quality of the personnel on board is a huge surprise,” said Wilcox, “I got a sore hand from shaking hands so much.”
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