By Mass Communications Specialist Seaman Daniel Schumacher

The crew aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) share 101 exercise machines stationed throughout the ship and two gyms while underway.

Such use causes heavy wear and tear, potentially resulting in unsafe or broken equipment, but thanks to Sailors assigned to Stennis’ Morale Wellness and Recreation (MWR) division, the equipment does not stay inoperable for long.

MWR is comprised of Sailors from various departments serving a six-month temporary assigned duty (TAD) billet. They assist with organizing and preparing Stennis’ MWR events as well as performing necessary maintenance and repairs of all gym spaces, equipment and exercise machines.

With so many exercise machines on board, something is usually due for maintenance or repairs, and the problem could be anything from corrosion and worn out parts to misuse and abuse of equipment.

“We’re not sure which one causes more problems for our machines: people being unnecessarily rough on our machines or the wet ocean air corroding our machines from the inside out,” said Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Joseph Morrow, from Portland, Ore.

The majority of maintenance and repairs are done with basic household tools like screwdrivers and socket wrenches but almost every problem with a machine requires an understanding of how the mechanics of each machine work in order to solve the problem.

“I’ve been fixing these machines for so long that I can sometimes tell what’s wrong with one just by listening to someone’s interpretation of how it sounded when he tried to start it,” said Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Kelly Kappel, from North Pole, Alaska.

Even with a full tool belt and a firm understanding of the machines, a bit of muscle is usually needed to get the job done. The awkward shapes, sizes and weight of the machines make handling them a difficult task which must be done with precision and care.

According to the MWR Sailors, moving exercise machines around the ship is one of the most difficult parts of the job and may take all day depending on a variety of factors such as ship operations, sea state, the distance the machine needs to be moved, and the shape of the passageways. Whenever possible, the machine is taken apart and moved in pieces, but even this can be challenging.

Although the work may be hard at times, the MWR Sailors agree that their efforts to keep the machines operational are worth it for both themselves and the crew.

“I’m very grateful to have all of the equipment and machines out here on deployment,” said Aviation Ordnanceman Aiman Anthony Whitesides, from Stackton, Calif. “it’s my favorite way to relieve stress from the day and keep healthy.”

Maintaining so many exercise machines over long deployments can be a hassle, but Stennis’ MWR Sailors work hard to keep them operational so the crew can stay in shape and remain active.

The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSCSG), consisting of Stennis, Carrier Air Wing 9, Destroyer Squadron 21, and guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) are deployed to the U.S. 5th Feet area of responsibility to strengthen regional partnerships, sustain maritime security, and support combatant commander requirements for assets in the area.

For more information about JCSCSG visit and


Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Kelly Kappel (left), Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Joseph Morrow (middle) and Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Adam Lyons repair an eliptical exercise machine aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Daniel P. Schumacher/ Released)