Story by MC3 Dugan Flynn
Photo by MC3 Crishanda McCall

After an eventful 45 days away from homeport, USS John C. Stennis’ crew is ready to be home for time with family and friends and maintenance prior to deployment.

Stennis recently completed Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) and Joint Task Force Training Exercise (JTFEX), wrapping up the underway with a Switchfoot concert for crew members.

“This underway period had a lot of stuff going on,” said Combat Direction Center Officer, Cdr. Chris Dobson. “Not only COMPTUEX and JTFEX, we also had Supply Management Inspection (SMI), and ORSE, the reactor inspection. Those are all major events in a carrier’s training evolution. We passed those with flying colors as well. All of those elements are necessary for a carrier to be able to deploy across the Pacific and into the Middle East.”

This underway has provided many challenges and opportunities to learn and improve from the battle exercises, said Dobson.

“We’ve learned how to operate in a communications denied environment,” said Dobson. “One of the key points of JTFEX was the denial of satellite communications and it forced us to coordinate in other ways. It stressed us a little bit out of the box to find other ways to get things done.”

Another challenge Stennis had to face this underway period was working together with the strike group to perform the missions of different battle problems.

“Working together as an overall group was probably one of the biggest challenges to overcome,” said Strike Officer, Cdr. Stevin Johnson. “It’s been very easy to work on our own with Fleet Replacement Squadron Carrier Qualifications, for instance, where we don’t have to worry about integrating with somebody else to do what we need to do, but we’ve done well.”

The entire crew has played an integral part in this underway and the efforts of each individual contributed to the overall successful completion said Dobson.

“You’ve got to have a reactor that runs, you’ve got to have a supply chain that works, and you’ve got to be able to supply the folks with food and gas and material to keep the ship running the aircraft running, keep bombs on the airplanes,” said Dobson. “It’s the efforts of the guy that fixes breakfast for the crew, the guy that generates power for the ship, the guy that pushes buttons to launch missiles. It’s an all hands effort to make sure we can do our job and I think we’re ready to go.”

Commander, Strike Forces Training Pacific (CSFTP) recommended Stennis ready for Major Combat Operations.

“CSFTP noted that we worked well together as a strike group,” said Dobson. “We were stressed more right off the bat through JTFEX in the battle problem than previous strike groups that have gone before us and we received accolades across the board.”

Even though Stennis has completed both COMPTUEX and JTFEX, training is an ongoing evolution said Johnson.

“There’s still learning and training to be had all the way through deployment, but that’s just the normal pattern of life,” said Johnson. “We will continue to improve on our skill sets. But I think the ship and Strike Group are ready for deployment.”

This underway has prepared Stennis for both peaceful and wartime scenarios that may be encountered during deployment, said Dobson.