Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andrew P. Holmes

Pacific Ocean – The chief of naval personnel (CNP) and fleet master chief responsible for naval manpower embarked aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) to meet with Sailors, Jan. 23 and 24.

Vice Adm. William Moran, CNP, and Fleet Master Chief April Beldo, Moran’s senior enlisted advisor, visited to the crew of Stennis for the first time since the ship finished her Docking Planned Incremental Availability (DPIA) period November 2014.

“Last time we were out here was when you were back in the yards, back in November 2013,” said Moran. “I remember walking through the hangar bay at that time thinking ‘When are we ever going to be able to see this ship underway?’ And here we are, almost 15 months later, so it’s great to see you underway, great to see you operating.”

With Stennis currently undergoing carrier qualifications in preparation for deployment, Moran and Beldo spoke with the crew in a live question and answer session over ship’s SITE TV.

“We’re out here to listen and learn from you,” said Moran. “And we get a lot of great questions and comments. Some of the things we can answer and those things we can’t answer we take back with us and try to answer for you.”

Here are a few of the questions asked by Stennis’ crew:

Q: When will we see deployment lengths get back to something more normal, around seven months instead of 10 months?

A: “That question comes up often,” said Moran. “As you know, Vinson is out there in the northern Arabian gulf on a scheduled 10-month deployment, a very long time. Prior to her, Bush was out there for nine months. Bataan was out there for 10 months. The reason we’ve been on these long deployments is, quite frankly, we’ve been running these platforms very hard for the past 10 or 12 years. And maintenance is taking it in the shorts.”

“Now that we have started to get maintenance under control across the Navy, and we have reduced the number of total deployers out there, we are going to start to see those deployment lengths come back to something more normal. We expect that almost all the deployments for the big decks, both carriers and amphibious assault ships, are going to be down to seven months and back to a normal cycle.”

“Prognosis is good; the secret to success is good maintenance periods. A tip of the hat to Stennis for getting this ship out in very close to being right on time, which is unusual for carrier maintenance periods today. That effort does not go unnoticed, and I know how much this crew participated to get this ship out of the yards and ready to go to sea. If we keep seeing efforts like yours around the fleet, we’ll be able to get back to those normal schedules, about seven months.”

Q: Is it true that after August 2015 we will no longer be able to pick orders for our next command?

A: “That is not a true statement,” said Beldo. “What billet based distribution (BBD) is going to do is allow commands to make sure their billets are put into the system with exactly what they want. And then once that is done, once you go into CMSID, which will still be available, when you pick your job you will have to meet the particular criteria that the command has set. BBD is going to make sure commands have the Sailors they need to fit the billets they have.”

Q: When can conventional Machinist Mates expect to get pro pay for reactor work?

A: “Your junior officers brought that up in a call last night with us,” said Moran. “It’s the first time I’ve heard that request, and I’ve got to be honest with you, I know how hard those conventional guys are working down in the reactor department. We are going to take that back and ask the people who fund that program to see if we can’t carve out a little bit of money for those guys. No promises, but I am going to take it back and work on that.”

Q: Why are you changing uniforms? The best way to fix it, is to stop fixing it.

A: “You’re probably right, shipmate,” said Beldo. “The Admiral and I get this a lot as we travel. If we just stop, it would work itself out. But one of our responsibilities is to listen to the fleet. A lot of the feedback we get is that we need to fix this in the uniform, or fix that, or this doesn’t fit right.”

Moran added, “I’m with you shipmate, about too many changes. I’d love to slow down the pace of change on our uniforms, and I think we’ll get there once we get this next trudge of Cracker Jack uniforms out. We just finished the wear test on that, got a lot of good feedback on that. Got a lightweight version of the NWU coming out, just finished the wear test on that. Beyond that there are very few changes in the enlisted force, other than the fire resistant coverall, which we are redesigning to be more utilitarian, more lightweight, more breathable, and frankly looks sharper than the one we have today.”

Q: How come the Navy only pays 80 percent of Tuition Assistance (TA), making us pay more out of pocket?

A: “Not true, shipmate,” said Moran. “We fund TA at 100 percent. I tried to go to 75 percent last year during the last budget cycle, but your CNO braced me up and said ‘what don’t you understand about 100 percent TA?’ So we fully funded TA, and it will not be reduced. What has happened was last year the Department of Defense set a policy that we would no longer fund the fees for registration and labs. That’s it. Beyond that, nothing’s changed.”

Q: Are you a Seahawks fan?

A: “As long as I’m on board this ship, I’m a Seahawks fan,” said Moran. “The minute I walk off this ship I’m a Giants fan. It’s been a rough couple years for the Giants, and a great couple years for the Seahawks. But I’ll be cheering for the Seahawks in the Super Bowl because I love Russell Wilson. I love the leadership of that team and I think they’re going to win, so good luck to the Seahawks.”