By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Dakota Rayburn

PACIFIC OCEAN – Sailors aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) completed a defense systems upload, Jan. 27, a prerequisite to operating in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility.

Stennis’ on board defense systems are the second, third and fourth line of defense against attacks targeting the ship and its crew.

“The Sea Sparrow Missile System is the first line of defense after our jets,” said Fire Controlman 1st Class Nathaniel Pitts, from Rogers, Ark. “If it gets past the jets, this is how we kill it.”

Pitts said the defense systems rely on redundancy. If one system fails there is another system with the same capabilities standing by to take its place. Stennis uses the Sea Sparrow, RIM-116 Rolling Air Frame Missile (RAM) and the Phalanx Close-In Weapons System (CIWS) in that order to engage both surface and air contacts.

While the operation was a success, it didn’t come without its challenges. According to Pitts, the departments and Sailors involved had to overcome a variety of obstacles to complete their mission. There were delays due to bad weather and flight operations making handling the munitions unsafe. More significantly though, this was the first hands-on weapons upload for many of the fire controlmen involved.

“After [the DPIA maintenance period], we had almost a complete turnover of personnel and a great loss of experience and assets,” said Pitts. “Through training they’ve quickly caught on, picking up the slack in the other’s absence, making one of the best upload teams I’ve seen.”

Fire Controlman 3rd Class Brad Boyer, from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, said this was his first weapons upload, and he was most impressed with the unit cohesion in his group. Even if they had a somewhat bumpy start they came together well and performed efficiently and safely.

Pitts explained it took a lot of coordinated effort to navigate around machinery hazards, explosive hazards and standard human error.

“It took many departments across the ship to get this set up, said Pitts. “It takes a lot of attention and people doing the right thing to make this work.”

Boyer said they needed to upload the weapons to protect the ship from threats like incoming missiles and boats penetrating the defensive perimeter around the ship.

“Our only responsibility is to keep everybody on the boat safe,” said Boyer.

Providing a combat-ready force to protect collective maritime interests, Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment.

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