By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Martino and Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Dakota Rayburn
BREMERTON, Wash. – USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) was commissioned and entered service 20 years ago today in a ceremony held at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va.
Two decades is a significant amount of time in any life cycle. The ship’s life during that time includes a rich history.
While conducting sea trials in January 1997, Stennis recovered and launched an F/A-18F Super Hornet, becoming the first aircraft carrier to qualify the airframe. After completing that workup cycle, Stennis left Norfolk for her maiden deployment to the Arabian Gulf, Feb. 26, 1998.
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, when Stennis was five years old, she began conducting missions in support of Operation Noble Eagle off the U.S. West Coast. As the first carrier to launch strikes against Al-Qaeda militants in Afghanistan she was at the forefront of the War on Terror that November during her deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR).
Three years later in 2004 Stennis proved that she could operate anywhere in the world, participating in exercises Northern Edge in the Gulf of Alaska and Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) in U.S. 3rd Fleet’s AOR with, now decommissioned, aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) before deploying to the U.S. 7th Fleet AOR.
On another deployment in 2007 Stennis joined Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) in the Arabian Gulf, marking the first time since 2003 that two aircraft carrier strike groups were in the area simultaneously. On that same deployment, in May 2007, Stennis, USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and seven other ships passed through the Strait of Hormuz as part of the largest movement of U.S. Naval ships since 2003.
The intervening years provided Stennis the opportunity to show how versatile she and her crew are. In 2012, Stennis faced pirates and led a rescue operation of the Iranian fishing vessel Al Mulahi and its crew. All 13 hostages were freed and all 15 pirates were captured without any casualties.
Stennis completed a 16-month docking-planned incremental availability in Nov. 2014 and began a very busy work-up cycle in 2015, where her crew earned a Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) figure of merit score of 88 percent-the highest achieved by an aircraft carrier in five years.
The ship was named after Sen. John Cornelius Stennis, who was born Aug. 3, 1901 in Kipling County, Miss. As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (1969-1980) Stennis stood firm for U.S. military superiority and consistently supported American service members. A strong Navy, second to none in the world, was always at the top of Stennis’ agenda earning him the ‘Father of America’s Modern Navy’ moniker from President Ronald Reagan.
Currently, Stennis is in port conducting training and maintenance in preparation for an upcoming deployment. As always, the Sailors aboard Stennis will be ready for any challenge thrown at them or any adventure over the horizon.
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