Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James S. Lyon
PACIFIC OCEAN – The Sailors of John C. Stennis Strike Group (JCSSG) completed Composite Training Unit Exercise / Joint Task Force Exercise (COMPTUEX/JTFEX), Aug. 27, earning a ready-for-deployment certification from U.S. Third Fleet.
The exercise tested JCSSG’s crew and assets on their ability to operate together as a strike group through a challenging series of simulated events.
“Across the board everybody got better,” said Rear Adm. Ron Boxall, commander, JCSSG. “We learned what everyone needed and communication improved.”
COMPTUEX/JTFEX is about combining different elements of the strike group and throwing challenges their way that require cooperation between units.
“It’s an integrated exercise,” said Boxall.”It’s the first time we’ve really come together in a complex tactical environment.”
JCSSG’s flagship, USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), served as the command center for the exercise, allowing Boxall and his staff to oversee participating units: Destroyer Squadron 21 (DESRON 21) and its ships, USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110), USS Stockdale (DDG 106) and USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93); Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 and its commands, Strike Fighter Squadrons (VFA)s 14, 41, 97 and 151, Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 112, Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 133, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14, Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71, and Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30; and USS Mobile Bay (CG 53).
Part of the exercise included working with decreased communication capabilities, allowing the strike group to practice in strategically austere situations.
“In a comms denied environment, it’s very important that your subordinates understand command direction,” said Capt. Robert Chadwick, commander, DESRON 21. “We spent a lot of time ensuring the guidance we put out made it clear there was no question what the commander’s intent was, and I trust those commanding officers to go out and execute that intent.”
The strike group Sailors have been living a rigorous training schedule in preparation for the upcoming deployment, with some earning notable historic and personal achievements.
Stennis caught its 150,000th arrested landing, or trap, Aug. 22. The ‘Gear Dogs’ of the ship’s air department maintain the wires and VFA-97’s Lt. Wayne Irons, from Valley Springs, Calif. caught the wire in the squadron’s F/A-18E Superhornet number 302. “Being a part of the history and heritage of the ship feels good,” said Irons.
Every Sailor had a part to play in the exercise. A junior Sailor standing aft lookout kept the strike group safe during a simulated danger.
“I was on watch, and I saw a green light,” said Boatswain’s Mate Seaman Bryan Diaz-Padilla, from Orlando, Fla. “I thought it was unusual, so I went to report it. I hurried up to the bridge to make sure that contact got reported and all the information was passed.”
The green light was a flare, which feigned a torpedo in the water, and Diaz-Padilla’s diligence allowed Stennis to conduct evasive maneuvers, outwitting the simulated threat.
The strike group accomplished challenging simulations based on real-world surface, air, undersea, strike, and electronic attack scenarios.
“The goal of this COMPTUEX was to challenge us,” said Boxall. “It gave us more confidence to operate in an incredibly stressful, high threat environment.”
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