Aviation Electrician's Mate 3rd Class Bryan Darlington signals to a helicopter on the flight deck during a VERTREP.

Story and photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate

Stennis successfully completed an ammunition on load yesterday with dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Charles Drew (T-AKE 10).

Stennis received a total of 207 ordnance crates while also sending out 30 surplus crates through vertical replenishment and connected replenishment.

Two MH-60S Knighthawk’s from the “Golden Falcons” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12 moved ordnance from the Charles Drew to Stennis’ flight deck while Stennis Sailors accepted weapons in hangar bays two and three.

“The flow in the hangar bay was a lot more difficult than the flight deck because ordnance was coming down from elevator four while Deck Department was receiving ordnance using the sliding padeye,” said Stennis’ Ordnance Handling Officer (OHO) Lt. Cmdr. Bill Donals. “We had Sailors taking crates from the elevators and stacking them while others were moving them to the weapons elevators to be taken down to the magazines.”

According to Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Michael Washa, Sailors from the flight deck worked so well that operations moved like clockwork.

“We planned out our attack strategy and were able to accomplish our mission on the flight deck while also giving the hangar bay crews a consistent flow of ordnance,” said Washa. “It made everything come together smoothly.”

Although the personnel participating in the on load consisted primarily ordnance oriented rates, Sailors from all over the ship understood their roles and were an important part of completing the mission.

“There were a lot of different people from a lot of different rates working on this evolution,” said Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Paul Coombs. “Everyone worked together and got the work done quickly. I think it went really well.”

In a display of teamwork and unity, Sailors from the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) were on hand to help Stennis complete their mission.

“With a total of 26 ordnancemen TAD to Fallon, Nev. to train squadrons, we coordinated with the Nimitz on sending us 15 people to assist us in completing this task,” said Donals. “We also pulled personnel from Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department and Combat Systems to act as safety personnel and tractor drivers in the hangar bays.”

Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Vanessa Lechtenberg of G-1, who has been on the ship for only a year, said this evolution was a walk in the park compared to the Indian Island ordnance on load Stennis participated in during an underway in Dec.

“The ammunition on load went well overall after I got used to how fast the ordnance was coming down from the flight deck,” said Lechtenberg. “I think this on load went a lot better than Indian Island because I knew what to expect.”

Despite complex operations in the hangar bays and the flight deck, Stennis’ crew was able to come together to complete its mission. This physical display of safety, teamwork and efficiency allowed Sailors to accomplish their work quickly so they could continue to focus on Stennis’ successful completion of FRSCQ.