Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Derien C. Luce

ARABIAN GULF The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) hosted a sailor from the French Navy, Jan. 4 -6.

Quartier maître chef, the equivalent of a Culinary Specialist 1st Class, Remy Tomezach, from the French navy F70AA-class air defense destroyer FS Cassard (D 35), joined John C. Stennis Sailors for a cross deck opportunity.

Having a foreign ally tour the ship was a new and interesting experience for John C. Stennis Sailors.

Its fascinating to see someone from another countrys navy, said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Sanka Harris, from Miami, and Tomezachs tour guide. We got to socialize a lot, we like the same music, have the same taste for foods and we have a lot of things in common.

Tomezach noted that he felt welcomed during his stay.

I appreciate that everyone is really friendly and always willing to answer questions, said Tomezach.

Although Tomezach easily integrated with John C. Stennis Sailors, he still experienced some differences.

Its totally different here with the squadrons and ships company, plus the constant service hours and amount of food, said Tomezach. On my ship we make one thing, say rice, and thats what everyone eats that day. Here you have so many choices.

Despite being out of his normal routine, Tomezach was able to impress the John C. Stennis culinary specialists with his skills in the kitchen.

At first he was just observing, but when I asked him if he wanted to try things out he was ready to go, said Harris. He was very particular. He cooked tenderloin for the wardroom officers and it was amazing. It just melted in your mouth.

Tomezachs visit was a positive learning experience for him as well as the John C. Stennis Sailors.

He was a very quick learner who always had his hands in something, said Harris. After meeting Tomezach, I see the French as hard workers. John C. Stennis Sailors were not alone with feeling a strengthening in the international partnership.

I feel so great being able to come here, said Tomezach. I really wish I could extend my time here and learn more.
Cassard is current integrated with Combined Task Force (CTF) 50.

The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, designated as CTF 50, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.

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Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jake Greenberg

ARABIAN GULF – A commissioned military officer’s first salute is a milestone in their career and is a cherished moment for both the newly-promoted ensign as well as whoever raises their right hand to the brim of their cover in front of them. In some extenuating circumstances, that first salute might have to travel halfway around the world.

Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Yan Yang, from San Francisco, the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) Dental Department’s leading petty officer, recorded her salute to her husband while underway with the ship Jan. 2, so he could receive it on his commissioning day in the spring. “After explaining to some friends and colleagues that I won’t be there to see my husband get commissioned, Master Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate James Ortiz, John C. Stennis’ Air Department’s departmental leading chief petty officer, gave me the idea to record my husband’s first salute with the help of the ship’s Media Department,” said Yang. “We recorded a short video for him, and I’m arranging for the video to be played during his commissioning ceremony.”

Yang’s husband, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Anthony Vanluven, from Redding, California, is stationed at Naval Hospital Bremerton, Washington. He applied to the Medical Service Corps In-Service Procurement Program, which requires accepted enlisted applicants to graduate from Officer Development School (ODS) before rejoining the fleet as a commissioned officer.

Yang said that she met her husband while they were stationed together at Naval Dental Center, a part of the 3rd Dental Battalion at Marine Corps Air Station Okinawa, Japan. They married at their second duty station together, Camp Pendleton, California, in 2013.

“[My husband] will get a degree in health care administration with Army-Baylor University prior to reporting to his first duty station,” said Yang. “I’m incredibly proud of him and can’t wait to see where his career will take him.”

Being on a deployment can pose predicaments that Sailors need to work around, but with the help of shipmates and technology, special moments, like first salutes at a loved one’s commissioning ceremony, can be made possible.

The John C. Stennis Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.

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Story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jeffery L. Southerland

DUBAI – U.S. Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) participated in a community relations (COMREL) event at Tender Hearts Arena in Dubai, Dec. 27.

Sailors assisted Tender Hearts Arena, a non-profit recreational center, in their mission to provide recreation and activities to those who are mentally impaired.

Sailors interacted with the students throughout their daily routine to support and improve their social skills by joining with the students in a series of fun events and games.

“We got together and helped out with activities such as working out, dancing, and treasure hunts,” said Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 2nd Class Frederick Harrison. “It definitely humbles you as a person and gives you an opportunity to see life from a different angle. You get to meet different people, experience different cultures, and get to see how they interact with people that have needs that are higher than those of the average person.”

The John C. Stennis promotes the U.S. Navy’s mission of building relationships with other communities around the world through its COMREL events. Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class Colin Scott, from Larkspur, Colorado, assisted Tender Hearts Arena in support of that mission.

“Today we were helping the community,” said Scott, after the event. “We were out here painting and playing with everyone, having a blast.”

At the end of the COMREL event, Lt. Cmdr. David Duprey, a U.S. Navy chaplain and principal assistant to the Command Religious Ministries department aboard the John C. Stennis, commented on the overall beneficial experience of the event, and his hope to continue to support Tender Hearts Arena if opportunities arise in the future.

The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.

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Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erika L. Kugler

ARABIAN GULF – The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) celebrated the holidays with a USO tour holiday visit, Dec. 23.

Some of the talent included Olympic gold medalist Shaun White, country music artist Kellie Pickler, actor Wilmer Valderrama, and comedian Jessimae Peluso.

The group performed a show for the crew in the ship’s hangar bay, and crew members were able to meet with their favorite talent.

“I’ve been so proud to be a member of the USO because it has enabled me to be able to travel the world and see my brothers and sisters who are making the American flag so proud,” said Valderrama.

Sailors were moved by the support shown by the USO group.

“It’s hard being away from family and friends during the holiday season, but it helps us get through the long days when you see people you admire from TV and sports come out and talk to us and support us,” said Damage Controlman 2nd Class Amanda Skelton, from Cleburne, Texas. “I felt proud and loved.”

General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also visited the crew to show his support during the tour.

“I want to wish you happy holidays, and since I know you won’t be home this season, I wanted to bring a little bit of home to you,” said Dunford.

The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.

For more news on John C. Stennis, visit or follow along on Facebook at

Story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Angelina Grimsley

SINGAPORE – More than 120 Sailors from Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 3 participated in community service projects at the Tanglin Salvation Army and the Chai Chee Willing Hearts Soup Kitchen in Singapore, Nov. 26-27.

Sailors who volunteered at the Tanglin Salvation Army sorted donated clothing, electronics, toys, and a variety of assorted household goods.

Lt. Ryan Albano, divisional officer in the Command Religious Ministries Department aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), and one of the event coordinators, said community service is a part of the mission and legacy of the Navy.

“This is perhaps one of the most important things I get to do in the Navy,” said Albano. “We set a high standard everywhere we go that the United States Navy does not simply come to consume. We also show up to give back.”

The Sailors volunteered on Monday and Tuesday, which are the days the Tanglin Salvation Army receives the bulk of its weekly donations.

“We are really happy to have extra help on our busiest days. It was a big help to us,” said Benjamin Sim, the location’s human resources manager. Sailors also volunteered at Willing Hearts Soup Kitchen by breaking down over 300 pounds of fish for stocks and stews and helping to organize the dry storage of more than 500 pounds of rice.

“It’s important to show our host nation that we’re allies and represent ourselves and our nation in a positive light,” said Aviation Administrationman 2nd Class Javon Wilkerson, a volunteer at the soup kitchen.

Willing Hearts cooks, serves lunch, packages, and delivers an average of 6,000 meals a day from sunrise until after sunset to those in need. The meals are distributed to over 60 locations to feed Singaporeans who are unable to leave their homes.

The community service projects were conducted during a scheduled port visit to the island nation by John C. Stennis, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile cruiser USS Spruance (DDG 111).

The ships moored at Changi Naval Base following a high-end dual carrier strike force exercise in the Philippine Sea with the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, providing Sailors the opportunity to explore the island and the city.

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Story by Lt. j.g. Jamie Moroney, USS John C. Stennis Public Affairs

CHANGI NAVAL BASE, Singapore – The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111) arrived in Singapore for a scheduled port visit, Nov. 24.

The visit to “the Lion City” by assets of the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSSG) affords the crew the opportunity to enjoy one of the most dynamic ports in the world and to expand partnerships in the region.

“Every Sailor in Carrier Strike Group 3 is excited and grateful for the opportunity to visit Singapore,” said Rear Adm. Mike Wettlaufer, commander, Carrier Strike Group 3. “In addition to this opportunity to enhance our partnership with the Republic of Singapore Navy, the diverse food options, recreational and entertainment activities, and chance to experience local cultures make this an ideal place for our team to enjoy some well-deserved rest.”

John C. Stennis, Mobile Bay, and Spruance moored at Changi Naval Base after participating in a high-end dual carrier strike force exercise in the Philippine Sea with the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group.

During the port visit, JCSSG Sailors will have the opportunity to explore the island and the city, participate in community service events and take part in morale, welfare and recreation tours.

Other components to JCSSG include Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 21, embarked aboard John C. Stennis.
CVW-9 consists of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14, Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 117, Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 133, VFA-151, VFA-97, VFA-41 and VFA-14.

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Story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Joshua L. Leonard

PACIFIC OCEAN – “Heave!” yells out a Boatswain’s Mate’s as Sailors pull in lines from the pier. As the rope is pulled by the team, a small detail emerges: The line handlers have the same tattoo. The tattoo is set of crossed anchors on the webbing of their hand between the thumb and index finger.

Like a lot of other traditions and customs, the crossed anchors origins are hard to trace back. However, the symbolic meaning is widely known in the world of the Boatswain’s Mate. The tattoo tells of a Boatswain’s Mate knowledge and leadership abilities.

“When I was coming up, it was different,” said Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Charles Brown, the deck department 2nd division leading petty officer. “To get your tattoo you had to go through a board process with either a Boatswain’s Mate Chief or the most senior Boatswain’s Mate in your division. It was similar to the surface warfare qualification process.”

While some parts of the tradition have changed over time, many aspects remain the same. The boarding process is no longer used, but the Boatswain’s Mates today are held to the same standard as Boatswain’s Mates of the past.

“You have to be a knowledgeable and competent Boatswain’s Mate,” said Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Alexander Trujillo. “You have to be someone that can do the job and do it well. You have to be able to handle line and lead people before you earn the right to get the crossed anchors.”

The crossed anchors carry a lot of weight on the ship, but its reach isn’t limited to only life inside the Navy.

“I was at a gym, and a man in his 50s walked into the locker room,” said Brown. “I remember hearing someone yell ‘BOATS.’ It caught me off guard. I looked up and he told me that he was a Boatswain’s Mate when he was in the Navy. We got to talking and shared some sea stories. That wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t have our crossed anchor tattoos. The crossed anchors develop an immediate connection between Boatswain’s Mates of the past with Boatswain’s Mates of today.”

Like most things in the Navy, the small details tell a larger story. The hand the tattoo is worn on is indicates where a Boatswain’s Mate has been.

“The hand the tattoo is on is symbolic of which coast the Boatswain’s Mate sails on,” said Trujillo. “The right hand represents the East Coast and the left symbolizes the West Coast.”

In addition to telling the story of the Boatswain’s Mate, the tattoo has the power to link former service members as well as former family members whose military background was previously unknown.

“After I got my anchors I found out that my great uncle was a Boatswain’s Mate during World War II,” said Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Travis Lightle. “It was a really cool thing to share with him. We both have our anchors.”

Bonds like the one Lightle experienced are just one way naval tradition can bring together Sailors from all different generations. While the Navy is an ever-changing organization, the links to the past will always have a place in today’s Navy.

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Story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Joshua Leonard

PACIFIC OCEAN – The John C. Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership sponsored the annual John C. Stennis Leadership Awards ceremony July 19, during which the Straight Furrow, Look Ahead and Constitution awards recognized Sailors who have performed at a high level and exhibited the most exceptional leadership skills.

Cmdr. Rodney Moss, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) weapons officer, referred to as GunBoss, and Straight Furrow award winner, exemplifies what a strong leader can be, but it’s important to remember leadership is not exclusive to those at Moss’ level. Every Sailor aboard John C. Stennis can affect the command by practicing leadership skills.

“Something I tell all my Sailors is that they’re all leaders,” said Moss. “It doesn’t matter the rank or position. It’s about seeing something, saying something and doing the right thing because there is always an opportunity to do the right thing. That was one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacies of leaning forward. Then you take Senator John C. Stennis and all the amazing things he did. Those are the attributes and qualities of a leader.”

Moss also stated that small changes to daily routines or adapting to new situations sets an example for others to follow.

“Leadership starts with being a leader of yourself,” said Moss. “Be on time, in the right uniform, have courtesy and get your warfare pin. Instead of grumbling and complaining, step up and be a leader. Something as simple as seeing a piece of paper on the floor and picking it up can make you someone that others want to emulate.”

Someone Sailors want to emulate is Master Chief Melissa Warren, the administration department leading chief petty officer and recipient of the Look Ahead award.

“My Sailors understand that if they have a problem I’m not going to shut them down, or if they have a question I’m not going to turn them away,” said Warren. “I want them to know their time and their opinions are valued. I think my Sailors treat each other the same way.”

Warren also explained that listening and understanding the people around you is a vital skill, but it must be matched with humility and the ability to receive feedback about yourself.

“Accept feedback and drop your ego,” said Warren. “It’s important to welcome critiques and criticism to grow as not only a leader, but also as a person.”

For many, the growing process never ends and the Sailors that have received awards for their leadership ability still recognize that their journey is not yet complete.

“Even when you’re a leader of others, it’s important to realize that you can still learn from other people,” said Ship’s Serviceman 1st Class Michael Burdios, the training department leading petty officer, and Constitution award recipient. “Every Sailor on board has something to teach me.”

Teaching is a necessary skill for a leader to possess. Burdios and Moss both agree that every Sailor aboard has the capability to develop leadership techniques.

“Everybody has the potential to be a leader,” said Moss. “Most people don’t practice their leadership skills. People are told they can’t be leaders for one reason or another, or they feel like they aren’t valued. When they’re given the opportunity to be a leader, they will succeed.”

Success isn’t always something that comes right away. Failure can be devastating, but also a powerful learning tool if approached with the right mentality.

“It’s like a game of basketball,” said Burdios. “If you miss a layup with five seconds left in the game, the game isn’t over. There’s still time left on the clock. You just have to give 110% next time to make sure you don’t miss the next shot.”

The recipients said winning an award for your leadership is an honor that might take years to earn, but the small reward of helping a shipmate is something that can be earned in a single moment. What may seem like a small act might make a world of difference to someone else, and true leaders make that difference.

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Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David A. Brandenburg

NORTH ISLAND, Calif. – A change of command ceremony was held in the hangar bay onboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), Aug. 3.

Capt. Randall W. Peck relieved Capt. Gregory C. Huffman as commanding officer of John C. Stennis.

Guest speaker Congressman Gregg Harper, U.S. Representative for Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District, praised Huffman on his accomplishments as commanding officer of John C. Stennis as well as his naval career.
“[Capt. Huffman’s] service has been above and beyond the call of duty,” said Harper. “We are all grateful for his years of honorable and distinguished leadership…Senator [Stennis] always said good leaders “Look Ahead”, and I feel confident that some of [Capt. Huffman’s] brightest days are ahead.”

During his speech, Huffman thanked the crew and credited his Sailors for everything accomplished during his time onboard.

“The standard has been set, and it is because of all of the hard work you’ve put in the last few years. You’ve blown everything we’ve done right out of the water,” said Huffman. “The Stennis is one of the best warships in the fleet, and it’s all due to your effort and dedication to excellence. Thank you for your outstanding service, and a job well done.”

Peck, from Houston, received his commission upon graduating from the Naval Academy in 1991. He was designated as a Naval Flight Officer after completing flight training at Naval Air Station Miramar in 1993.
Peck served as the commanding officer of the Carrier Airborne Early Warning (VAW) 112 “Golden Hawks” squadron from September 2009 to December 2010, executive officer of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS
Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) from 2014 to 2016, then as the commanding officer of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) from February 2016 to May 2017.
“It is an honor to take command from Capt. Huffman, and a privilege to take charge of this outstanding crew,” said Peck. “Sailors are the motive force behind any successful warship and this crew is ready; we are combat focused, and I look forward to continuing the high standards of excellence while increasing our combat readiness to overcome any challenge that the future holds.”

Before departing the ship one final time, Huffman stopped in the ship’s museum to carve his initials into a replica Senate desk. Since the Civil War, senators have carved their initials into their desks on the Senate floor as they leave office; each of Stennis’ commanding officers has followed this tradition to pay homage to Senator John C. Stennis.

Providing a combat-ready force to protect collective maritime interests, John C. Stennis is currently conducting operations to maintain readiness.
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Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David A. Brandenburg

BREMERTON, Wash. – Picture this; you leave from work the same way and around the same time as any other day. As you approach an intersection the light turns yellow, you slow down but the car in front of you speeds up to make it just as another car comes speeding through, smashing the car in front of you. In a matter of seconds, a peaceful drive home turns into a moment of chaos and in your mind you have a choice; react and respond to possibly save lives, or stay and watch. An unknown test and challenge presents itself, “Can I save a life? Can I perform in an uncertain situation?” What do you do?

Although the scenario is chaotic and not a daily occurrence, the uncertainty of life can rear its ugly head at any time during your day in the military. For Maj. Brian Chontosh, retired Marine, Navy Cross recipient and author, the term ‘readiness mindset’ is how he makes sense of living his life, ready for anything. In Chontosh’s article “Performance on Demand,” he encourages everyone to build their mindset of readiness by approaching everyday life “as a process of accruing experiences in the event we are tested without warning.”

“Knowing yourself and knowing each other in various times of uncertainty, confusion, demand, exertion… is critical,” said Chontosh. “How else can you create a familiarity and comfort with something you didn’t initially know? Thinking you know who you are in a scenario versus actually knowing is often confused by too many.”

Performance on demand is a term that Chontosh has adopted throughout his life. Having the capacity to demand excellence of himself through any situation and in any environment prepares him for the worst even in the best of situations.

“The test or evaluation is some artificiality that gets measured,” said Chontosh. “Last time I checked, Mother Nature doesn’t really care so much about your measurements. Neither does ‘Murphy’. Summits are optional, coming down is mandatory.”

Having confidence in your own training and capabilities, and treating everyday situations as a chance to excel with pride in a job well done, allows for a mindset to perform on demand for anything in the military, and in life.

“Critical challenges rarely come with adequate forewarning. Performance on demand is the act of producing results PERIOD. Right here, right now,” said Chontosh.

“I also don’t try to do monumental things. It’s like someone who needs to lose 50 pounds, sounds like a lot and it’s a big ordeal. Fifty pounds sounds like [half a pound] repeated a few times,” said Chontosh. “Reduce things down to simple tasks that can get small wins, and then repeat. The problem is that everyone wants to win the 400-million-dollar Powerball right now.”

Staying physically fit, forging mental toughness through learning of any kind and constantly taking on new challenges is something anyone can do. For the single-parent service member who challenges balancing duty with appointments, to the senior officer working 10-plus hours a day to finish their career milestone qualifications, taking time to invest in yourself to be able to perform at ‘your’ highest level is something everyone should strive for.

“I tell myself all the time – all you need to do in this moment is ‘suck less’ than you might otherwise. It’s a healthier twist than ‘do a little better’. I just try to suck a little less than I did yesterday,” said Chontosh.

“I need a lot of work! I realize that, and I also give myself the proper credit at saying, ‘hey, you are also a good man and have come a long way’.” added Chontosh. “I think acceptance and being ok with yourself is part of the first few steps. Awareness obviously has to lie in there, but I’m not convinced it is in any specific order.”

Taking life’s lessons, the positives and negatives, successes and failures, and sharing them with others only spreads a mindset to everyone you work with, serve with, and care for. Passing the knowledge just builds a stronger tribe of people everyone can share their life with. Sticking to the same script doesn’t always ensure growth for those you may lead.

“You don’t need to make things mundane, tedious, or more than what they are,” said Chontosh. “Just teach personal accountability, personal pride, and the value of service, and do the right thing at the moment. Period. It doesn’t matter yesterday or tomorrow, what you would have or should have or could have, or if you’re this or that. Do your duty now; with excellence.”

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