Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ignacio D. Perez

PACIFIC OCEAN – Thirty-five Sailors aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) competed in a Morale, Welfare and Recreation sponsored pullup contest, June 19.

Participants were given as much time as they needed to perform as many overhand pullups as they could without touching the floor.

“These contests are awesome because not only do they push people competitively, but it also brings everyone together and helps with morale,” said Culinary Specialist 1st Class Devi Laidley, from Philadelphia.

Laidley won the female category with 15 pullups and Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Taven Olson, from Edmonds, Wash., won the male category with 35 pullups.

“Even though pullups are not a part of the Navy’s physical readiness test, it’s important to be physically well balanced,” said Jonathan Ciecko, Stennis’ Fit Boss. “I feel these competitions help promote fitness and an overall healthier lifestyle on the ship.”

Ciecko said future events will include squat, press, and deadlift contests. They will be done in addition to the range of afloat fitness activities already offered, which includes Zumba, yoga and spin classes.

“My goal for these contests is to show everybody that there is a healthy activity out there for everyone and help them understand that in the end you feel better because of it,” said Ciecko.

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Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ignacio D. Perez

PACIFIC OCEAN – USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and JDS Kashima (TV-3508), from the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF), conducted a replenishment-at-sea with the USNS Yukon (T-AO-202), June 17.

Command Task Force 33 (CTF-33) coordinated Stennis’ and Kashima’s simultaneous replenishment-at-sea. Along with Kashima, two other Japanese vessels, JDS Shimayuki (TV-3513) and JDS Yamagiri (DD-152), were in formation after leaving San Diego earlier this week for Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) 2016 planning.

“[Replenishment-at-sea] starts with a longer range plan where we take into account how much fuel we are going to need for our aircraft and when we are going to need it,” said Cmdr. Carl Whorton, Stennis’ strike officer, from Covington, Wash. “It happened to be a coincidence that the Japanese vessels had to refuel with the Yukon at the same time.”

Operations like this, where the U.S. Navy coordinates with other nations, fit into a larger overall naval picture, helping the U.S. strengthen ties with its allies.

“Our abilities to operate alongside each other comes from the confidence developed during encounters like we had today,” said Capt. Mike Wettlauffer, Stennis’ commanding officer. “The more you work together, the more shared understanding you have.”

Stennis is scheduled to participate in RIMPAC, the world’s largest international maritime training exercise, in summer 2016.

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

Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Jiang

BREMERTON, Wash. – USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and John C. Stennis Strike Group (JCSSG) completed Fleet Synthetic Training-Joint Exercise (FST-J), June 5 while in their homeport of Bremerton, Wash.

The weeklong exercise saw JCSSG working together with Navy, Army, Marine and Air Force elements, as well as foreign militaries to complete several simulated scenarios based on real-world events.

“It shows that we are smarter about what activities we must do at sea and what types of training we can simulate ashore,” said Rear Adm. Ron Boxall, commander, John C. Stennis Strike Group. “We get better training value overall and more bang for our underway buck because we will start at a higher level and theoretically should perform much better at sea.”

For seven days JCSSG staffs and units practiced planning and integrating the many ships and aircraft that make up the strike group, all in a virtual joint battlespace.

“FST-J increased our warfighting capabilities and positioned us to gain maximum benefit from follow-on integrated training and certification events, leading to maximum readiness for our upcoming deployment,” said Capt. Robert Chadwick, commodore of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 21, part of JCSSG.

The exercise was run by Tactical Training Group Pacific (TACTRAGRUPAC), based in San Diego, and brought all participating assets from around the world together on a virtual network.

“FST-J did a great job integrating the warfighting commanders into the carrier strike group and really highlighted the importance of the striking power that we had,” said Capt. Richard Brophy, commander of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, part of JCSSG.

Representatives from TACTRAGRUPAC arrived on Stennis prior to the start of the exercise to install the necessary equipment to run the scenarios on Stennis’ combat systems.

“We can do it in the classroom, but this is on our ships, on our aircraft carrier, using the spaces that we will actually be using in our operations overseas,” said Boxall.

Now that the simulated exercise is complete, Stennis and JCSSG are ready for the next phase in pre-deployment training, Composite Training Unit Exercise, or COMPTUEX, where the whole strike group will be underway.

“Part of this exercise is to build understanding and trust,” said Boxall. “I am very proud of our ability to work together across all domains, to include the joint players. I think we are ready to safely and effectively start a solid advanced phase of training underway prior to deployment.”

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

John C. Stennis Strike Group Completes Fleet Synthetic Training Exercise-Joint.docx

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.”

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

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.”

For more information about Athena Project Northwest and their future events visit or
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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.”

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

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.

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

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.


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