Northwest Military Blogs: Fleet Talk

February 18, 2016 at 10:59am

Agriculture, farming and ranching jobs for military veterans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced this week a joint agreement with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to increase employment opportunities in the agricultural sector for military veterans and their spouses.

USDA Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Deputy Under Secretary Lanon Baccam signed the agreement along with Eric Eversole, vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Eversole, a commander in the Navy Reserve, also serves as the foundation's president of Hiring Our Heroes. Baccam, a U.S. Army and Iowa National Guard veteran who served in Afghanistan, is USDA's Military Veterans Liaison.

"Today's agreement opens the door for thousands of servicemembers who participate in Hiring Our Heroes events around the world to benefit from USDA's vast array of tools and resources," said Baccam. "This new partnership strengthens USDA's ongoing efforts to help veterans pursue rewarding careers in farming, ranching, or in the fast-growing agriculture and food sectors."

The agreement establishes a new partnership between USDA and Hiring Our Heroes, a program that helps military veterans, transitioning active-duty personnel, and their spouses and partners with training and opportunities to find meaningful employment when entering the civilian workforce.

Since 2009, USDA has provided $466.8 million in farm loans to help more than 6,868 veterans purchase farmland, buy equipment, and make repairs and upgrades. Our microloans, which offer smaller amounts of support to meet the needs of small - or niche-type farm operations, have also grown in popularity among veterans. Since it was launched in January 2013, USDA's microloan program has provided more than $25.8 million in support to help veterans grow their farming businesses.

Recently, USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) also expanded its collaboration with the Department of Defense to better reach the nearly 200,000 servicemembers transitioning from military service to civilian life each year. Through a career training and counseling program, called the Transition Assistance Program, or TAP, USDA provides information on a wide variety of loans, grants, training and technical assistance available for veterans who are passionate about a career in agriculture.

For more information on how USDA can help military veterans transition into agriculture as a career, visit www.usda.gov/veterans.

This joint agreement between USDA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past seven years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing, and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill

February 11, 2016 at 2:46pm

PACNORWEST religious program specialists celebrate 37 years of service

Religious program specialists (RP) from the Pacific Northwest celebrated the 37th birthday of the RP rating at the Silverdale Yacht Club, Feb. 3.

RPs provide direct support to Navy Chaplains while helping sailors and marines through the forms of religious ceremonies, counseling and retirements.

"The RP rating is important in the Navy to support our servicemembers in more ways than just religion," said Chief Religious Program Specialist James Gibson, assigned to Naval Base Kitsap. "We support weddings, baptisms, retirements, and counseling on the spiritual and individual stands."

The RP rate was established Jan. 15, 1979, but enlisted personnel have been assisting chaplains since 1878. A committee of chaplains requested a chaplain's assistant who could play music and lead prayers, convincing the Navy to create the RP rate.

"Our main mission as a RP is to support chaplains administratively, logistically, and to serve as a personal bodyguard to chaplains attached to Marine Corps units," said Gibson.

RPs serve anywhere a chaplain may be attached to such as sea duty on a ship, shore duty on a base, overseas and even in combat with Marines.

"I had a really awesome chaplain at my first command and that's when I realized that's what I wanted to do, help and serve," said Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class Sheri Russell, assigned to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. "As a prior damage controlman I wasn't fulfilled with my duties, but after becoming a RP I have more enjoyment (in) my career."

Master Chief Religious Program Specialist Leo Angelus, senior enlisted advisor to Pacific Fleet chaplain attended the celebration as the guest speaker.

"It amazes me how far we have come," said Angelus. "I joined as a RP and to see how our rating has evolved is just beautiful. Before we supported (chaplains) from behind the scenes, now we are partners when it comes to serving our servicemembers."

The attendees shared stories of the changes in the rate from the time they joined the community and compared experiences from different commands.

"Chaplains and RPs are a team," said Capt. John Shimotsu, Pacific Fleet chaplain. "We work together to serve our sailors' religious needs as well as counseling and assisting with military life."

RPs, of all ranks, serve under a chaplain, but they also have their own duties not related to a chaplain.

"The rate is being professionalized compared to over 30 years ago when we first started," said Angelus. "We are able to train with chaplains while keeping our personal identities, we are not chaplains."

February 11, 2016 at 2:36pm

Safe and sound

Seaman Kathryn Brainerd practices security force compliance techniques after being sprayed with oleoresin capsaicin spray during a training exercise on USS John C. Stennis. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Jiang

On a warship with more high-tech ordnance than flavors of jellybeans, the more conventional tools and weapons used by law enforcement might seem humdrum. When destruction of your intended target is only a button-press away, why resort to the seemingly obsolete method of aiming down the sights of a sidearm?

If you had USS John C. Stennis' (CVN 74) security department's perspective on the situation, you would know how absurd that question is.

The security department is a force of sailors trained to use the tools and weapons of law enforcement to protect the ship and its crew from a variety of situations. The scenarios these sailors train to combat can be completely unexpected. Unlike a planned strike on a target, security is a countermeasure for the low-tech, but highly threatening, situations that big bombs cannot feasibly handle.

"We have to be ready for everything in a moment's notice," said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Keith Danalewich, from Palos Hills, Illinois, Security's leading petty officer and the Stennis' command investigator. "No preplanned response can cover everything."

Fortunately, security doesn't respond to a major threat very often. On a day-to-day basis, security is operating to maintain good order and discipline throughout the ship, keeping "honest sailors honest," said Danalewich. Security's responsibilities include cutting locks with lost keys, dealing with lost items and tracking restricted personnel. Security also handles the prevention and investigations of crimes on board.

"Our normal operations may seem a bit mundane, but that's not a bad thing," said Seaman Ian Burke, from Columbia, South Carolina. "The day things aren't normal is a very bad day for everyone."

Burke is assigned to the ship's Navy Security Force (NSF), the core group of sailors that serve on the security team at sea. NSF members receive training on a spectrum of tactics and techniques, from diffusing tense situations and using non-lethal weapons to using firearms to sweep through and secure areas. Active shooters, bomb threats, swimmers and disorder are some of the dangers security is prepared to combat.

Our training realistically simulates the dangers we're expected to face and teaches us how to properly respond, said Burke.

If the time comes and that response is needed, Stennis' security department is ready to face danger to protect our ship, said Burke.

When the threats are over the horizon, skilled pilots with scores of well-armed aircraft at their disposal are ready to launch missions to neutralize them, but, if a threat ever comes from closer, or even from inside, it will encounter the well-trained and capable repellent of Stennis' security force.

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.

For more news from USS John C. Stennis, visit www.stennis.navy.mil or www.facebook.com/stennis74.

February 11, 2016 at 10:23am

All-Navy Sports wrestle off

Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Austin Craig, a Monroe, N.C., native, stationed with USS Nimitz, counters Navy Diver 2nd Class David Close, a Marseilles, Ill., native, stationed with Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit Two. U.S. Army photo

The All-Navy Sports wrestling team held a wrestle-off tournament at Naval Base Kitsap (NBK), Feb. 3.

The tournament was formatted with single elimination matches, while finals were best of three, determining which sailors would compete on the All-Navy wrestling team's designated weight classes for Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling at the All Armed Forces Championship.

"This is a baby step people are going home after today," said Chief Navy Diver Alejandro Delapena, a Benton City, Washington, native, stationed with Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Division Keyport Dive Locker and coach of the team. "Making the team should not be your dream. You should have Olympic dreams, to be champion."

Wrestlers throughout the fleet normally meet up annually, training Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling at Northern Michigan University, the U.S. Olympic training site for Greco-Roman wrestling. This year the championship is slated to be hosted by NBK in Bremerton, Washington, so the team homeported camp at the base.

"I want the best person at that style, at that weight class," said Delapena. "You have six minutes to prove yourself, just prove it to yourself how far you can push yourself - give everything that you have."

Seventeen wrestlers faced-off for 17 different weight classes in both styles on the team. One sailor is able to hold a spot in both styles if they win.

"This week (leading up to wrestle offs) has been tough yet rewarding," said Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Austin Craig, a Monroe, North Carolina, native, and one of two sailors stationed aboard USS Nimitz (CVN 68) who applied and were accepted to the team's trial camp. "We are training savagely in preparation for the (All Armed Forces Championship), which is an Olympic trials qualifier."

The wrestling camp started Jan. 17 and entails two-a-day wrestling practices with Tuesdays off as an active recovery day. Wrestlers are training through minor injuries and are responsible for their own dieting and weight management. Eleven sailors were selected to be on the team's 17 spots.

The All-Navy wrestlers will be facing off against representatives from the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force at the championship in late February.

For more information about the All-Navy Wrestling team, visit: www.facebook.com/All-Navy-Wrestling-Team-172423636238080/.

February 5, 2016 at 10:20am

War wounds sometimes 'Moral'

Wounds of war are not always physical - they can be psychological, moral and even spiritual.

Servicemembers can be injured on many levels. One level less frequently mentioned in the literature is moral injury. In a combat zone, servicemembers are often confronted with situations that are radically different from any experience they have had prior to military deployment. A moral injury may stem from ethically challenging or life and death situations that are completely different from one's previous experiences. These ethical dilemmas and difficult experiences cannot always be processed and incorporated into one's existing belief system. As a result, the individual may struggle with resolving the conflict between their pre-deployment values and beliefs, and their experiences and actions in combat.  This internal conflict and the associated feelings of anger, shame, betrayal and grief are referred to as a moral injury.

It's important to note that the presence of moral injury does not mean a servicemember actually behaved "immorally."  Feelings of guilt, doubt and shame following combat are not uncommon, and have little to do with one's actual behavior.  Rather, moral injury can stem from the mere perception of behaving inconsistently with one's beliefs, or the mere doubt that one behaved morally or ethically.  Servicemembers contending with a moral dilemma of this nature often face challenges of the mind, body and soul. They may therefore operate with diminished functional capacity, and the struggle that originated on the battlefield may follow them home.  It is not uncommon for servicemembers who are attempting to re-integrate with their families and society post-deployment, to experience interpersonal problems and conflicts of faith. They may be unable to resolve fundamental questions related to values, interpersonal trust and their life's purpose.  Without guidance and support, the consequences can impact the servicemember's relationships with family, friends and supportive networks.  Such injuries may also lead to problems in the workplace. To make matters worse, typical treatment pathways are not necessarily geared to address moral injuries as a distinct issue.

Moral injury is as old as war itself, but the tools and strategies to aid recovery are continuing to evolve.  The military has therefore focused significant resources to better understand moral injury and the context for healing.  Military medicine,  Chaplain Corps, research community and leadership at all levels have joined in this effort.  New forms of therapy for moral injury are being explored, and moral injury as a concept is increasingly being discussed in military treatment facilities. For example, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth has a specific Warrior Recovery Division with an array of treatment options to help servicemembers better understand and resolve their unique post-deployment conflicts. Additionally, Naval Medical Center San Diego has programs that include complementary/alternative medicines and a variety of recreational therapies.

The key is working collaboratively with the servicemember to identify the most efficacious intervention for them and their family members. One important lesson learned over the past decade is the importance of guiding servicemembers to develop a help-seeking mindset, starting at the earliest opportunity.

February 5, 2016 at 10:17am

Sailors remember their little ones

A Stennis sailor shows off her coffee mug which is also a photo album of loved ones. Photo credit: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Aime Lykins

Almost all sailors know that selecting personal items to take on deployment is a strategic endeavor. While many opt for the latest tech gadgets or digital media, others find a place in their sea bags for keepsakes that remind them of the pieces of themselves they leave ashore; their children.

As the thundering sound of jet engines blaze overhead, many USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) sailors keep the pitter patter of tiny feet in their hearts as they navigate their daily tasks.

A small, fuzzy brown teddy bear with a demure bow and shiny black eyes sits vigilantly on the corner of the desk of Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Alex Perez as he scans paperwork and ushers patients in and out of Stennis' medical department.

"Teddy has been with me since 2012," said Perez, as he clutched the bear closely to his chest. "I got him as a present from my daughter in Afghanistan, and he's been with me ever since. I take him everywhere, and my daughter knows that Teddy is actually going to take care of me."

Perez received the bear, aptly named Teddy, from his 3-year-old daughter, Isabel. Teddy and Perez have traveled to numerous states and more than five countries together as a reminder of family ties and fatherly love.

"When I see Teddy, I see my family," said Perez. "Seeing him nice and calm in his little corner makes me feel like my family is safe and patiently waiting for me to come home."

Perez is joined by shipmates like Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sarah Beltran and Interior Communications Electrician 2nd Class Brian Guilliams, who remember their children with coffee mugs depicting cherished memories.

"My coffee cup, which I got for Christmas two years ago, that was actually my favorite Christmas present that year," said Beltran. "It is my favorite coffee cup ever, so I have taken that everywhere with me. I once thought I lost it here on the ship, and I almost cried."

Beltran is a mother of three young children and says that staying busy with work and online chatting during port calls helps her get through the separation. She also keeps videos on her laptop, which she says provides her with comfort.

Guilliams, father to a 5-year-old son, gathers motivation to excel in his work center by the daily reminder of his family at home.

"Seeing the coffee cup with his photos reminds me of why I joined the Navy and why I stay in the Navy," said Guilliams. "So I can provide for him, and I can give him a life that I wouldn't have been able to before."

Guilliams has been on sea duty for the majority of his son's life and takes time out as often as possible to foster the connection he and his son share through phone calls or even just watching movies he knows his son would enjoy while underway.

"He's my son, so everything that I do, I'm always going to be setting an example for him," continued Guilliams. "Every decision that I make is based off of how he would see it when he gets older and understand who his dad is."

Although Stennis may be an environment of steel and fortitude, tenderness is tucked away in desk corners, coffee messes and through a variety of mementos and tokens carefully stowed in work centers ship-wide.

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.

February 4, 2016 at 10:51am

JBLM equipment sails

A humvee is offloaded from the Military Sealift Command’s Surge Sealift, Roll-on/Roll-off ship USNS MAJ Stephen W. Pless (T-AK 3007), Jan. 28. U.S. Navy photo by Grady T. Fontana

Military Sealift Command's (MSC) Surge Sealift, Roll-on/Roll-off ship USNS MAJ Stephen W. Pless (T-AK 3007), arrived in Thailand to offload essential military equipment, including that from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, in support of Exercise Cobra Gold 2016 (CG-16), Jan. 27.

Thailand and the United States are scheduled to co-host the annual, multilateral Exercise CG-16 in various areas throughout the Kingdom of Thailand, Feb. 9-19. This year's CG-16 will consist of three primary events: a command post exercise, which includes a senior leader seminar; humanitarian civic assistance projects in Thai communities; and a field-training exercise that will build regional relationships.

The Pless was carrying more than 470 items that totaled approximately 2,500 long tons (5.38 million lbs.). The cargo included such items as military vehicles, aircraft and ammunition. A second MSC vessel, USNS 1ST LT Jack Lummus (T-AK 3011), is scheduled to arrive in the coming days to offload additional CG-16 gear.

The Pless started the PP 16-1 mission at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. "She then loaded the aviation task force in Hawaii, then went to Okinawa, Japan and picked up joint-forces gear that supports the exercise," said Peck.

Upon conclusion of CG-16, the Pless will backload the ship at the end of February, and then roll over to South Korea to offload the Army force for Exercise Foal Eagle. She will then swing back to Okinawa to offload Marine Corps equipment and upload the new Marine gear for Exercise Balikatan. The ship will come back to South Korea to pick up the Army force, and then move to the Philippines to offload for Balikatan. Finally, she will reverse sequence back to JBLM to drop off the remainder of the joint task force.

Phase one of the offload was conducted when the Pless sailed to the port of Sattahip in Chuk Samet to offload the remainder of gear, Jan. 28. From the ports, all equipment was staged and will be transported to various locations in Thailand.

During the exercise, MSC falls under the Joint Movement Coordination Center (JMCC) and works with various agencies, such as the Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC).

"The JMCC is the coordination center for all inbound and outbound cargo," said Army Maj. Juan A. Vega, JMCC officer-in-charge for CG-16. "This includes sealift, port handling and transportation. Our job is to receive the equipment at the port, and coordinate transportation to its final destination."

According to Vega, the JMCC is a team effort. SDDC is responsible for loading and offloading the ship and all the reception, staging and onward movement, and integration of all the gear that is coming off the ship. MSC is responsible for providing the ships that are capable of meeting the sealift requirement.

In addition to providing vessels that deliver the equipment for CG-16, MSC Far East (MSCFE) is also exercising expeditionary port operations.

At the port of Sattahip, MSCFE stood up a mobile sealift operations center (MSOC), a fly-away communications suite that is staffed by Expeditionary Port Unit 111 (EPU 111), out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The MSOC consists of two shipping containers: one is a storage facility and one is outfitted with a full complement of communications equipment.

"The EPU is here to train on port operations for contingency support," said Cmdr. Christopher M. Cassano, MSCFE exercise planner. "The EPU would rarely be used during peacetime, but in a contingency operation, when we're at a dozen different ports, we have the EPU to exercise control at the port for MSC. Because during phase two operations there would be no port agent - we'd be responsible for all things in support of the ships."

Exercise Cobra Gold, one of the largest multilateral exercises in the Asia-Pacific region and has taken place annually for more than 30 years. CG-16, the 35th version of the military exercise, will bring together more than two dozen nations to address regional and global security challenges and to promote international cooperation and stability within the region.

For more information, photos, and stories about the Cobra Gold exercise, including past iterations, please visit the official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ExerciseCobraGold.

January 28, 2016 at 10:21am

One community, many paths

Three MH-60R Sea Hawks assigned to the Raptors of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71 prepare to land on USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) flight deck. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago

Pacific winds whip across the nonskid of the flight deck on USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) as she cuts through glassy water reflecting a bright blue sky.

Pilots with steady hands on the controls of haze grey Sea Hawks, beat the JP-5 heavy air down and away in time with flight crew sailors directing each takeoff and landing. The Chargers of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14 and the Raptors of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71 are currently deployed with Stennis. These squadrons' pilots rely on extensive training, muscle memory, and on-the-job experience to navigate the dangers associated with their line of work.

Lt. Jason "OMG" Gaidis of HSC-14 from Brownsville, Indiana, said big mistakes can result in the loss of life, limb and equipment; which is why aviation officers must not only have the necessary skills, but also confidence in their own abilities to overcome any challenge.

People with distinct personalities seem to be attracted to, or develop within, this kind of job.

Lt. Pete "Therapist'" Listron of HSC-14, a helo pilot for four years from La Grange, Georgia, and known within HSC-14 for his energetic character, is a good example of that. He uses his emphatic personal motto, "Tight, tight, mega tight!" often but most especially to describe the huge rush he experiences when flying. He said his favorite thing about piloting helos is when he gets to fly backwards. Flying, though, requires all of a pilot's attention while using his or her whole body to operate the helo safely and smoothly.

"There's a lot more to being a pilot than just going up and flying," said Lt. Ashley "Mr. Ping" Hallford of HSM-71, a Sea Hawk pilot for four years, from Southlake, Texas. "There's a lot of time commitment involved, specifically with mission planning."

Other than the many various contingencies involved in planning a mission, the physics of flying a helo present a more fundamental challenge. Gaidis explained the complexity of rotary-winged flight as being like a balancing act that seems nearly impossible at first glance. However, due to extensive training, that skill becomes second nature, similar to riding a bike or driving a car.

"Imagine balancing three gyros on top of each other," said Gaidis. "For a helo pilot, you imagine the result you want and your hands do it."

Lt. j.g. Alex Wells of HSC-14, from Vestal, New York, explained that officers who make it through flight school and then graduate from either fixed-wing or rotary-wing training are nowhere near being finished with their education. Pilots are constantly learning and evolving to keep up with changing technologies so they can perform at the top of their game.

"It's an unbelievably large amount of work to be a pilot, but it's also a crazy amount of fun," said Gaidis.

Each pilot has to overcome many difficult obstacles to reach their goal. They must graduate from several different education courses and maintain a high standard of physical fitness while spending countless hours studying and training to eventually be able to fly.

Some are following a dream, living for a thrill, wanting to improve their lives, or modeling their life after someone they admire.

"(I wanted to be a helo pilot) when I was a kid; that's kind of what pushed me toward it," said Wells.

Few people are lucky enough to reach a childhood goal the way Wells has. Perhaps that's why some prefer to experience an individual moment up in the air to its fullest. They devote all of their attention to the helo and its surroundings, not just as a job they are tasked with but as a fluid moment.

"Flying is dynamic," said Listron. "You're in it to win it."

Some sailors view getting commissioned as a pilot to be the next step in their career. Gaidis used to be an aviation structural mechanic second class, earning his aviation warfare and naval aircrew pins before commissioning in 2010. He was a crew member aboard C-2A Greyhound cargo aircraft when he realized he wanted to be an officer. He applied to the Seaman to Adm. Officer Program several times before being accepted.

"I knew I wanted it and ‘no' means try harder," said Gaidis. "Once the opportunity came I worked hard for three years and made it happen."

Despite the wide variety of reasons people fly helicopters, pilots have formed a tight-knit group. Listron likes the community saying they have bonded over the years they've worked together and have created a culture all their own akin to a brotherhood. Like any close community, helo pilots have developed camaraderie with one another.

January 22, 2016 at 10:02am

Contesting the arresting gear

ABE3 Michael Toone, assigned to Nimitz, pulls on a lanyard attached to a support beam designed to hold a main engine cylinder piston, in preparation for maintenance on the ship’s arresting gear. Photo credit: MC3 William Blees

Having an aircraft land on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) is an extremely dangerous feat. Seeing the aircraft ripping through the skies, then suddenly touch down and come to an almost immediate halt is a process that few ever get to see in person. Capturing a landing aircraft involves numerous flight deck personnel utilizing four cables, called cross deck pendants, and an aircraft's tail-hook to stop the aircraft landing on the deck at full speed.

Calculating the exact pressure needed to stop every different type of aircraft landing is a science and could mean the difference between life and death. The cross deck pendants catching the planes can't do their job without the five arresting gear engines designed to take the force of each landing aircraft, making them a necessity for ship operations.

Air Department's V-2 division is currently in the process of taking apart arresting gear engine five and performing maintenance to prepare Nimitz for sea.

"This is corrective maintenance because it was leaking," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 1st Class Robert Reed, the leading petty officer of V-2's arresting gear division. "It's important because if it is leaking it won't do its job, which is catching the plane properly."

The arresting gear engines on board Nimitz are hydraulic systems that need packing at the end in order to keep fluid from leaking out. In order to effectively stop an aircraft landing on the flight deck, that packing has to occasionally be replaced.

Engine five has an important role as the barricade engine. The barricade is what Nimitz uses to catch aircraft in an emergency landing. It doesn't get operated as often as the other engines, inspected as often, or used in actual landings, but it plays a vital role on board.

"Its like an emergency airbag," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Michael Toone. "So the packing on it doesn't get replaced as often as the other ones, but you need to be able to catch an aircraft in an emergency. It has to work perfectly."

The maintenance associated with the equipment is difficult and has brought on unforeseen challenges.

"The biggest challenge we've had so far was that we couldn't get the ram out of the main engine cylinder (MEC), so we had to utilize shop 740," said Reed, referring to civilian workers from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, where Nimitz is currently undergoing an extended incremental availability.

The ram, which is similar to a giant piston, acts as a syringe pushing fluid through the MEC.

"Shop 740 brought their equipment and helped us jack the ram out of the MEC. They were a big help to us," said Reed.

Even without complications, maintenance can prove to be difficult due to sheer size alone.

"It's probably the biggest, heaviest equipment we have installed on our systems," said Toone. "You're looking at around sixteen thousand pounds of equipment that you have to move more than twenty feet to access. It's big and heavy, and replacing the packing itself around a twenty-inch diameter piston is actually a pretty delicate process. If you damage, bend, or warp it in anyway, it's no good and you have to get new packing."

The challenges faced give junior and senior sailors alike an opportunity to learn more about their equipment and think on their feet in order to overcome obstacles.

"This maintenance requires all sorts of technical expertise and knowledge on how the system operates," said Toone. "Actually being able to get in there and take it apart is a great learning tool to teach them how the whole system works. This gives them hands on training."

The maintenance has no real timeline, as it could change at any time depending on what complications are faced. However, with every new complication there is another chance for sailors to learn. Reed said it could take a couple days to a couple weeks to complete, depending on whether or not things run smoothly.

Launch and recovery is essential to the success of the mission. Having aircraft catapult off of the flight deck only to come touching down later on is like a well constructed symphony with V-2 division working constantly to tune all the equipment. V-2 continues to tirelessly complete mission critical maintenance in order to get Nimitz back to sea.

January 21, 2016 at 10:02am

USS John C. Stennis deploys

Sailors man the rails on USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) flight deck as the ship gets underway for a regularly scheduled deployment. Photo credit: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andre T. Richard

Sailors aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) departed their homeport of Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton for a regularly scheduled deployment, Jan. 15.

Stennis sailors manned the rails as the ship sailed away from the pier at 8:30 a.m. and began the transit through the Puget Sound to the Pacific Ocean.

While it is hard to say goodbye to loved ones, sailors are keeping a positive attitude and looking forward to all of the experiences.

"Deployment is bittersweet," said Logistics Specialist Seaman Miguel Torres, from Tacoma. "I hate having to leave my family behind, but I get to see the world. I'm excited to see all of the sites that people only get to see on TV. I get to experience the real thing."

For a quarter of the crew, this is their first deployment. For other sailors, this isn't their first rodeo.

"This is my second deployment, but I'm still really excited," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Ryan Blackwell, from Crystal Lake, Illinois. "My first deployment was a great experience, and I learned a lot. I'm mostly looking forward to port visits and experiencing all of the cultures I've never seen before."

Stennis' crew has spent 56 percent of the past year underway preparing for this deployment to the Western Pacific area of operations. They expect to participate in a number of exercises; training, integrating and building capacity with allies in that region.

"Deploying is the culmination of our training," said Capt. Mike Wettlaufer, Stennis' commanding officer. "This crew has attacked every challenge thrown their way, and as we leave to answer our Nation's call, I couldn't be any prouder of them. We are ready."

Stennis is the nuclear-powered flagship of the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSSG), which will also deploy as part of an ongoing rotation of U.S. forces supporting maritime security operations in waters around the world.

The strike group will be the centerpiece of the Great Green Fleet, a year-long initiative highlighting the Navy's efforts to transform its energy use to increase operational capability. JCSSG will use energy efficiency measures, to include technologies and operational procedures and alternative fuel in the course of its normal operations.