Archives for category: Training Operations

Story by MC3 Lex T. Wenberg
Photo by MC3 Grant Wamack

Many Sailors have seen other Sailors around the ship recently who look like Khakis, but wear strange collar devices instead of the usual leadership insignias. These young people, who will eventually become officers, are Midshipmen; future Sailors and leaders.

During their pre-commissioning time, their college years, the officers-to-be must go through a certain amount of Sailorization to prepare them for the fleet. Part of this involves going out to sea during their summer/winter breaks with surface ships or submarines in different phases.

“The first of the two phases we have aboard Stennis is the 2nd Class Midshipmen cruise, which is designed to really give the midshipmen the perspective on the hard work our enlisted do and the strong skill sets they bring to the fight,” said Lt. Cdr. Francis Brown, Stennis’ Training Officer. “The second of the two is the 1st Class Midshipmen cruise is designed to pair them up with a junior officer where they will receive a snapshot of what it’s going to be like to be a division officer out there in the fleet someday.”

Aboard Stennis, the Midshipmen are assigned to someone to follow, depending on their phase of midshipman training; lowerclassmen will learn from enlisted Sailors, while upperclassmen will learn from officers.

On both sides, the Midshipmen learn leadership in action.

“My time on Stennis has been helpful in seeing first-hand the working relationships between officers and enlisted Sailors,” said Midshipman 2nd Class Alex Songer, a Junior at the Illinois Institute of Technology. “You don’t see that in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC).”

Getting to experience the diversity of the ship is paramount to the experience. In order to achieve this, the Midshipmen are issued Personnel Qualification Standards (PQS) which are sets of proficiencies midshipmen must gain while aboard Stennis.

“The Midshipmen PQS they’re working on is something unique to Stennis,” said Brown. “Many ships put a PQS together just to give them varied exposure, but this one has a portion for each department and shows them the various war-fighting capabilities of the ship.”

The bulk of the program is geared to prepare the midshipmen for leadership, and to expose them to different types.

“Meeting everyone from Ensigns to Admirals, I’ve gotten to see different leadership styles,” said Midshipman 1st Class Marissa Eccleston, a Senior at the University of Rochester. “I got to see what’s working, what’s not and what appeals to my style most.”

Spending time aboard a Navy vessel can be an enriching experience for a Midshipman.

“I’ve really enjoyed this cruise,” said Songer. “I’ve been able to observe a lot about how the Navy runs, and also what the positives and negatives are between being enlisted and being an officer.”

The Midshipmen will be leaving Stennis shortly after the return to Bremerton, but will also be visiting Naval Kitsap Bangor as well as touring USS Nimitz (CVN 68) during their Planned Incremental Availability (PIA).

Their time aboard has been worthwhile, though,

said Eccleston.

“I realize after this cruise that everyone’s job is really important,” said Eccleston. “Whether you’re serving food on the mess decks to navigating on the bridge, every single person has a role which makes the Navy what it is.”


Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin Crossley
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Crishanda McCall

John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSCSG) and its crew of more than 5000 Sailors began Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) and final deployment preparations June 2.

JTFEX is an integrated battle force exercise designed to test the capabilities of carrier strike groups operating with multinational forces in a joint environment. It is the culmination of a series of exercises and training requirements conducted in preparation for upcoming deployment and readies the strike group for any challenge it may face while deployed.

Stennis finished composite unit training exercise (COMPTUEX), which was the biggest preparation for JTFEX, at the end of May.

“The exercise itself will be one continuous war time problem,” said Cmdr. Stevin Johnson, the strike operations officer. “We will continue where we left off of COMPTUEX and try to resolve the conflict in the joint operating area. The training will continue focus on our role in a joint environment while conducting sea combat operations.”

The cooperation that goes into this exercise comes from warfare commanders working together during operational interaction according to Johnson.

Upon successful completion of JTFEX, Stennis will be certified for the upcoming deployment to the Western Pacific and Central Command areas of operation to conduct maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts, helping establish conditions for regional stability.

JCSCSG consists of CVW-9, guided missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), and DESRON 21; guided missile destroyers USS Kidd (DDG 100), USS Dewey (DDG 105), USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and USS Pinckney (DDG 91).

Story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Carla Ocampo
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Timothy Aguirre

The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSCSG) completed a successful Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) May 27 off the coast of Southern California.

COMPTUEX, a three week exercise required for each carrier strike group, and designed to drill every warfare area from sub surface, surface and air to practice responses to situations that may occur while on deployment.

JCSCSG is made up of John C. Stennis, CVW-9, guided missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), and DESRON 21; guided missile destroyers USS Kidd (DDG 100), USS Dewey (DDG 105), USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and USS Pinckney (DDG 91).

“We all came together at the beginning of COMPTUEX as individual operating elements, and combined the forces into an effective strike group that is ready to deploy,” said Cmdr. Stevin Johnson, strike operations officer.

This is the first time the strike group has worked together since last deployment.

Embarked Strike Force Training Pacific evaluators mentored the JCSCSG on integrated operational capabilities through a series of simulations.

Stennis simulated strait transits with other ships from the strike group; conducted multi-mission air wing operations; participated in replenishments at sea; and ran many shipboard drills.

“Like any evolution you have to meet certain requirements before you can get the grade of satisfactory,” said Johnson.

Unit specific training allowed the separate strike group assets to practice their roles individually, while other situations reinforced the strike group’s ability to integrate and operate as a single force.

“As a strike group we have gotten much better at coordinating our efforts and achieving the desired goal through a united front rather than individual warfare commanders,” said Johnson.

With COMPTUEX complete, JCSCSG will begin a Joint Training Force Exercise.

“This is just the next step to a higher level of training and readiness for JCSCSG,” said Johnson. “Next, we roll right into JTFEX and continue the same training we’re doing right now but in a more complicated scenario.

COMPTUEX and JTFEX prepared Stennis and the JCSCG for the upcoming deployment last this year.

“COMPTUEX has equipped our Sailors to meet world-wide challenges in a safe and professional manner,” said John C. Stennis Commanding Officer Capt. Ron Reis. “It has given our crew the confidence and knowledge to be able to execute mission requirements during deployment; from humanitarian relief efforts to dealing with piracy or warfare in any region of the world.”

Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lex T. Wenberg
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin Murphy

During the Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), ships in a unit such as the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSCSG) are subjected to complex training tests.

Among the assessments of COMPTUEX are the Green, Blue and Red Team assessments of computer network security aboard JCSCSG’s flagship USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).

During Green, Blue and Red Team’s embarkation, Stennis’ network security enforcers, Information Assurance (IA), will be graded on their capabilities.

Ensuring responsible use of the ship’s computer network by the crew is just one of IA’s jobs. They are also responsible to the Commanding Officer for defending our networks against outside attacks.

“We develop and maintain a Command Level IA program to provide adequate security for all associated assets,” said Ensign Joseph Jones, Stennis’ Information Assurance Manager.

Green Team is the first of the three assessments where a group of security specialists embark and inspect the network for vulnerabilities. Green Team also gives recommendations to the ship for actions which IA can take to strengthen network security.

“Green Team is responsible for helping us see things we overlooked,” said Information Systems Technician 1st Class (SW/ AW) Eric Ebe. “This helps us root out security risks.”

Having completed the initial assessment, Green Team’s recommendations are already being implemented.

“During Green Team’s assessment, we saw iTunes installed on computers as well as other software,” said Ebe. “This type of software is not authorized on the ship’s computer network, so we got rid of it.”

What is supposed to be the next phase of the testing, called Blue Team, is almost identical to Green Team, but the results of the assessment carry far more weight. Blue Team has been postponed until June, said Information Systems Technician 1st Class (SW) Brandon Manning, IA’s current LPO.

“We had to jump right into the Red Team assessment due to time constraints,” said Manning.

Assuming the ship performs well for Red Team, a group of ethical hackers who will test network security procedures and attempt to exploit vulnerabilities and give the network a general work-over, the next step will be Blue Team.

“Some of the questions we ask ourselves between drills are: did we accomplish what Green Team asked us to?” said Ebe. “Were we able to make the changes fast enough? Red and Blue Team will evaluate our successes.”

The entire crew is involved in these phased assessments, said Jones.

“My request for the crew is not about the upcoming assessments,” said Jones. “It’s about what we need to do on a daily operational basis: do not install unauthorized software or hardware, stay away from porn sites, do not open suspicious e-mails that have attachments or links, no electronic spillage, etc. Everyone on the ship signed a SAAR-N form for access to the network, so please adhere to it.”

Failure to meet the standards of Blue Team’s assessment can mean a loss of connection to the Global Information Grid.

“That means no e-mail, no web browsing, no share drive, and no comms,” said Ebe. “Nothing.”

“This is the final assessment and will be the final condition we have to meet before deployment,” said Ebe.

Since communication is essential to any sea-going vessel, particularly the flagship of a carrier strike group, both IA and the rest of Stennis’ crew must be vigilant when it comes to proper network security.

Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dugan Flynn
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate

Sailors with Strike Force Training Pacific (SFTP) have come aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) to assist with Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) by training and mentoring JCSCSG Sailors on possible scenarios they may face on the upcoming deployment.

SFTP trains Sailors by analyzing methods in which the strike group deals with different situations, finding weaknesses in the strike group’s war fighting capabilities, and showing ways in which the strike group can improve.

“SFTP provides Fleet Commanders with combat ready maritime forces through integrated training, mentorship and assessment at sea,” said Commander Strike Force Training Pacific, Rear Adm. Thomas Cropper. “In pursuit of tactical excellence, we conduct composite warfare scenarios employing best practices to successfully operate against evolving threats in the contested battle space.”

SFTP sends analysts aboard ships with experiences they’ve gained from previous deployments to construct battle problems in order to share those experiences with others.

“We look at what a country would actually do when we’re about 12 nautical miles out from that area and try to apply that to actual exercises,” said Cryptologic Technician(Technical) 2nd Class (SW) Nick Fugate. “We try to make the scenarios feel as realistic as possible. That way the crew has already seen that country’s reaction to their presence and knows how to handle it. There’s still going to be some surprises, you can’t really train for real life, but we try to make it as real as possible.”

SFTP provides a glimpse of the big picture using all sources available for everyone’s knowledge said Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Cam Wiseman.

“We provide a complete understanding of what’s going on, so the decision makers can make decisions based on what they know,” said Wiseman. “We’re trying to help the senior leadership figure out, should we strike that? Should we send our forces in to deal with that situation, whether or not we should drop bombs on targets, or just continue on. We’re trying to help them get the most accurate picture possible, to make the best decisions possible.”

Members of SFTP look at areas of deficiency and do their best to help the crew understand the problems so the ship’s own crewmembers can correct potential problems themselves before they reach deployment.

“Nobody likes being told they might be doing something wrong,” said Wiseman. “It’s tough, so we have to do it in a way where they’re open to receive it. We try to get the crew to think for themselves so they can make a decision on their own. We’re just trying to be as helpful as possible.”

Cropper went on to say with the guidance of SFTP, the Stennis crew has already shown improvements in many areas.

“Stennis has performed remarkably well in many mission areas,” said Cropper. “They have also greatly improved in areas where they were not as strong in the beginning. The ship and airwing team had some of the best performance in night carrier operations that we have seen in the last eight COMPTUEXs. This has not come easily. The hard work to prepare for operations at sea by all hands, the superb planning by Carrier Destroyer Squadron 21, Carrier Airwing Nine and Stennis leadership, and the tremendous focus on safe and professional execution by your strike group’s commanders and commanding officers made the difference.”

COMPTUEX prepares Sailors, staff, and commanders to go forward and meet any challenge, said Cropper. SFTP plays a vital role in that preparation to give the crew the confidence and knowledge to deal with any scenario while on deployment, from humanitarian relief efforts to dealing with piracy or warfare in any region of the world.

Story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Benjamin Crossley
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate

The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group conducted a simulated strait transit May 18 off the coast of Southern California.

The simulation was the second planned by Commander, Strike Force Training Pacific (CSFTP) as a part of a composite unit training exercise (COMPTUEX) for the strike group.

“The reason we practice strait transit is because we are potentially vulnerable while conducting the operation,” said Stennis Tactical Action Officer Lt. j.g. Patrick Emery.

CFSTP was on site in many areas of the ship to observe and evaluate the strike group performance.

“What we saw today was the application of lessons learned from the previous strait transit simulation conducted earlier this month,” said Lt. Cmdr. William Wood, the cryptologic resources coordinator for CFSTP. “This was the most complex evolution of the COMPTUEX and one of the most exciting.”

The CSFTP team designed scenarios to test the strike group in tense situations based on real strait transits.

“We observe a foreign country’s response to a strait transit and use that intelligence in our simulation so the carrier strike group goes through something as realistic as possible,” said Cryptologic Technician (Technical) 2nd Class Nicholas Fugate, an intelligence analyst mentor trainer for CFSTP. “It is essential for a strike group to perform this training so they know what to expect while on deployment.”

The CFSTP teams’ realistic simulation allowed the strike group to respond with real-time interaction.

“With this evolution, we were stressing the command and control of the strike group and exercising the communication flow from the strike group to the fleet commander,” said Capt. Richard Thomas, the surface operations officer for CSFTP.

CSFTP acted as a fleet commander as part of the exercise in order for the strike group to make requests and perform as if this was a real situation.

“The strike group must request permission from the fleet commander to conduct certain operations while in the various fleets of the world,” said Fugate.

The goal of the strait transit simulation was not to teach the carrier strike group to engage and attack potential enemies.

“The goal of the evolution was to teach the strike group to avoid escalating the situation, and to monitor and assess the potential threats,” said Thomas. “Restraint is a major component of this exercise.”

During the exercise, potential threats were spotted on radar and helicopters were tasked to investigate and report back to the strike group.

“Communication is the key,” said Lt. Kyle Johnson, helicopter operations officer at CFSTP. “The helicopter squadrons applied the skills learned from the first simulation and are dealing with potential threats to the strike group.”

During the exercise, helicopters performed blocking maneuvers to protect the strike group from potential threats while the strike group continued to analyze the threats.

“The strait transit can be a very stressful situation, but I feel we did very well,” said Emery.

The strike group is tasked to learn both skill sets required to enter into 5th and 7th fleet.

“Today’s exercise was the pinnacle of a 5th Fleet scenario dealing with multiple warfare areas to include maritime security operations,” added Thomas. “We constantly update training to incorporate and emphasize important elements learned from 5th and 7th Fleet headquarters. By constantly evolving, we can stay current and give the strike group the best, most-up-to-date tools to be successful on deployment.”

As COMPTUEX continues, CSFTP will continue to train Sailors of the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group for their upcoming deployment.

Story and photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Benjamin Crossley

John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group simulated a strait transit May 13 off the coast of Southern California.

The simulation was planned by Commander, Strike Force Training Pacific (CSFTP) as a part of a composite unit training exercise (COMPTUEX).

“We scheduled an exercise encompassing the air wing, destroyers and the carrier strike group in order to test the individual units’ tactics and procedures,” said Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Toriello, assistant intelligence officer for CSFTP. “The test is also an observation of the staffs’ integration with various components of the entire strike group.”

A normal strait transit is planned well in advance and is a coordination between intelligence, operations, navigation, weapons, media and the entire strike group, said Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class Cam Wiseman, an observer with CSFTP and mentor to the Ship’s Nautical or Otherwise Photographic Interpretation and Examination (SNOOPIE) team and Carrier Intelligence Center (CVIC).

During the simulation, CSFTP organized with Operation Forces, a government contractor, in coordinating a series of small boats to antagonize the strike group. As the ship delt with the potential threats, CSFTP assessed the individual units and the strike group as a whole.

“We saw good defensive measures taken by ships and aircraft to protect the strike group using techniques and procedures that the strike group has not been able to practice since the last deployment,” said Toriello. “Many team elements went well and were done right.”

As helicopters attempted to deter small boats, the ships maintained a defensive posture and assessed the potential dangers of each vessel using real time intelligence, said Wiseman.

Toriello called the experience beneficial to the complete strike group. All ships need to understand and recognize the difference between a threatening fast attack craft and an illicit, non-threatening smuggler, which is a possibility on the high seas of Fifth and Seventh fleet, he said.

“Our training is SECNAV directed for certification for the carrier strike group for global operations,” said Toriello. “Without the certification, carriers cannot deploy.”

This was the initial assessment of the carrier strike group’s teamwork and capabilities.

“We saw a lot of potential and some room for improvement as expected with the first true exercise of the strait transit scenario,” said Toriello.

As COMPTUEX continues, CSFTP will continue to ready Sailors of the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group for upcoming deployment.

Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dugan Flynn
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate

Five Stennis Sailors and one Marine were recognized by Stennis’ Commanding Officer Capt. Ronald Reis for being the first responders to a catastrophic engine failure that injured 11 Sailors Wednesday.

The training these responders received aboard Stennis played a direct role in their ability to handle this incident on the flight deck.

“We just acted instantaneously when it happened,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Kenneth Shaffer, the P-25 fire truck driver on the scene who, along with his team in Crash and Salvage, helped to extinguish the aircraft fire. “There wasn’t a lot of emotion at the time; it was just an adrenaline rush. Training kicked in instantly.”

While flight deck personnel worked to extinguish the fire, others began responding to the wounded shipmates in the surrounding area.

Marine Corps Cpl. Jacob Fischer of Marine Strike Fighter Training Squadron (VMFAT) 101 helped an injured Sailor with a broken leg by applying pressure to the wound until corpsmen arrived on scene to take over.

“Training put me in autopilot,” said Fischer. “I may not have consciously known what to do, but as soon as the incident happened I ran through all the events in my head. I helped medically and I’m not any sort of medic.”

Training also helped the corpsmen bypass their emotional responses and tend to injured personnel in a timely manner.

“It was a scary situation,” said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Eleysia Friend. “One of when your friend is screaming in pain, it’s hard to keep going. I just knew I had to keep going without letting my emotions take over. The training I’ve received made it possible for me to take care of these people. Everyone was so professional and our efforts were so fluid.”

The first responders worked together as a single unit. Many individuals helped to save lives that day, but it was the work of the entire team that prevented further casualties.

“It was intense,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Apprentice Mason Odegard, the senior airman on the scene. “Pretty much everyone from Crash and Salvage was there helping each other out. Everyone did what they were supposed to.”

Some may feel that training is strict and that they will never be in the position where they need to save the ship or its crew, but Wednesday’s mishap was proof that one never knows when training will be used.

“At drills, the instructors are very particular in how they grade you,” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sean Murray. “Sometimes your work is analyzed so much that you start to question your ability to do your job when a real casualty occurs, but that day something did happen. We really did have to do our jobs to save people’s lives and our entire crew did well. The training really did prepare us to handle the situation, and I didn’t doubt myself while I was working.”

Capt. Reis said everyone acted according to training and with determination.

“I am extremely proud of our crew,” said Capt. Reis. “The flight deck of an aircraft carrier is an inherently dangerous place, but our personnel are well trained to operate safely in this environment. They responded quickly, professionally, and with purpose, extinguishing the aircraft engine fire.”

Mishaps may be rare events, but the training conducted throughout the Navy prepares Sailors and Marines to handle such incidents with an immediate and appropriate response.

YN3 Jaren Cleveland adjusts fire-fighting equipment and flash gear for OSSR MacKenzie Woodford during a GQ drill in hangar bay two aboard Stennis. Photo by MCC Eric Harrison

Story by MC2 Patrick Dille

The pulsing General Quarters alarm blares over John C. Stennis’ 1MC. Sailors spill out of offices and dart out of hatches like ants out of a hill, and scurry to any one of ten repair lockers scattered throughout the hulking Nimitz-class aircraft carrier Stennis, but the necessary rhythm is off.

Ship-wide damage control drills were somewhat rare during Stennis’ six-month planned incremental availability, and the majority of Sailors manning repair lockers have never served as firefighters, or pipe patchers, or any of the other dozens of critical jobs during general quarters. So, like drill sergeants in a crowd of new recruits, damage control training team members bring order and understanding where there is chaos.

“A great damage controlman once told me that every Marine is a rifleman and every Sailor is a firefighter,” said Personnel Specialist 1st Class Marianogerard Zamora, part of the training team known as DCTT (said “dee-set”) in repair locker 1-Bravo charged with helping each Sailor gain the same sort of precision in emergency situations, like fires and flooding, that Marines have on the battle field.

“The whole reason we have GQs is so that people can get into the muscle memory of things,” said Zamora.

As the carrier deployment cycle unfolds, many Sailors will spend several months under the careful instruction of DCTT members and seasoned locker leaders, learning skills and qualifying for repair locker positions.

They will practice damage control procedures repetitively until their reactions are second nature, and DCTT will ensure they encounter as many different scenarios as possible.

“This way they can better attune their skills for when an actual casualty happens,” said Zamora.

Despite lockers having only had a handful of drills since getting underway last Tuesday, DCTT members already notice a measureable difference in skill level.

“In the beginning the lockers needed a lot of work,” said Personnel Specialist 1st Class James Coburn. “In a short time they’ve gone from a group that’s struggling to a locker that functions as a team.”

While receiving on-the-job training from DCTT members on fighting casualties, members of the locker must simultaneously work on qualifications to broaden their abilities.

“I see most people bringing their PQS to GQ,” said Coburn, “but that’s not enough. Everyone needs to be constantly working on that next step. Fires and flooding don’t stop for people that don’t know what they’re doing.”

All the successes of a fully functioning damage control team can be suddenly and unexpectedly thwarted due to small mistakes made in a hurry. Going against traffic when general quarters is called could potentially injure, or at the very least slow down, multiple individuals. Sailors also need to be aware of the dangers of traveling too hastily.

“People run, but they can’t do any good if they fall down and get hurt on the way there,” said Chief Personnel Specialist Leonard Hartford. “Everybody needs to walk, but walk quickly.”

As Stennis finished up sea trials and entered the holiday season, Sailors took with them a knowledge of damage control to protect their floating home away from home.

“When we are sick, we are here. When we are sad, we are here. When we are happy, we are here,” said Hartford. “We have to defend it and make it safe.”

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