Story by Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Andrew P. Holmes

BREMERTON, Washington – Forty-two Sailors assigned to USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) hiked in Mount Rainier National Park on Friday for an exercise in resilience.

The John C. Stennis Toughness Hike was orchestrated by John C. Stennis’ Command Religious Ministries Department (CRMD) to provide relief from a stressful period in the yards through physical exercise and adventure.

Over the course of three hours, Sailors gained 1,700 feet in elevation and traveled four miles. They trekked through snow, scrabbled down shale and pushed up the mountain slopes to reach their end destination.

“Hiking is a great metaphor for what life is like,” said Lt. j.g Ryan Albano, a Navy chaplain aboard John C. Stennis from Papillion, Nebraska. “You have ups, downs, mountains, valleys, slippery slopes. Doing things like this shows how when you stay motivated you get rewarded, in this case, by a beautiful view.”

John C. Stennis is currently in its Planned Incremental Availability (PIA), a period dedicated to repairing the ship and updating systems. Sailors during PIA often take on additional tasking outside their normal roles: Operation Specialists become painters, Aviation Boatswain’s Mates learn to use metal grinders, and Personnel Specialists become tile layers. Albano says this kind of collateral work can cause stress and frustration, and events like this hike help alleviate these ailments.

“A warship is made to fight, not to coddle us,” said Albano. “It takes a lot of effort to keep it war-ready. Sailors are sacrificing a lot; their families are sacrificing a lot. Although they are walking a lot this is an opportunity for them to nourish the heart and soul through nature.”

Challenges come and go, but no Sailor succeeds alone. Group events like this help Sailors develop connections across the ship and broaden their support network.

“There’s a lot of teamwork,” said Seaman Deamber Young, a John C. Stennis Sailor and hike attendee from Birmingham, Alabama. “A lot of somebody holding your hand to get you down and help you up, keeping you from slipping down rocks or hurting yourself. Most people here I’ve never met, and we are on the same ship. It helps you build a better connection with people that you might not spend time with on a regular basis.”

Sometimes it takes teamwork and perseverance to conquer a difficult hike. Like conquering mountain trails, the Navy can be challenging, but overcoming the challenge, especially with others, can be its own reward.

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