Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Susan C. Damman
PACIFIC OCEAN – Behind heavy, closed doors and bathed in dim, blue light is one of the busiest rooms aboard USS Stockdale (DDG 106). The Combat Information Center (CIC) bustles with subdued activity, lowered voices and watchstanders deep in concentration. They monitor air, surface and subsurface contacts on consoles around the room and communicate with other ships in the strike group 24 hours a day.
CIC is the central nervous system of the ship, gathering sensory information from various radars, sonar, and other systems; processing and evaluating that information; and disseminating it to the bridge and other ships in the strike group.
The Sailors aboard Stockdale are undergoing Combined Training Unit Exercise and Joint Task Force Exercise (COMPTUEX/JTFEX), the final step in certifying the John C. Stennis Strike Group to deploy. The ship has run through a variety of scenarios designed to test every aspect of the crew’s ability to respond throughout the approximately five-week exercise.
Stockdale Sailors have trained continuously during the past year, but COMPTUEX/JTFEX has increased the pace in CIC. Now that they’re operating with other ships in the strike group, there are a lot more moving pieces for the CIC team to track and monitor.
“Aircraft are in the air,” said Operations Specialist 1st Class Daniel Lara, from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. “A lot of surface contacts are out. So now [CIC personnel] are having to do what they were trained to do at a much faster, much more intense, longer duration than they’re used to.”
The Tactical Action Officer (TAO) is the director of CIC. The TAO works with the different warfare coordinators to identify air, surface, and subsurface contacts. If those contacts are involved in hostile or suspect tracts, they work to come up with how to best handle the situation.
“For COMPTUEX, we’ve really put everything together and executed what it is we’ve been practicing for so long,” said Lt. Brad Bowen, one of Stockdale’s TAOs, from San Diego. “Over the past year we’ve been doing a lot of training exercises working by ourselves, and now we have the opportunity to work with the entire strike group.” Everybody in CIC plays a role, from the TAO to the newest watch stander.
“It’s not a single person mission,” said Bowen. “We have to incorporate every watch stander and make sure that they know exactly what’s going on and why they’re important and what they bring to the fight.”
The lessons learned during COMPTUEX/JTFEX has paid dividends for many of the Sailors, especially those who haven’t deployed with the strike group before. Watchstanders who recently earned their qualifications are putting what they’ve learned to good use.
“I’ve learned a lot,” said Operations Specialist 3rd Class Alexendria Klosterman, from Okeana, Ohio. “I’ve gotten so much better at my job.”