On August 10th, nine Navy League members, plus a member’s grandson, boarded the USS John C. Stennis in San Diego for a four day Tiger Cruise to Bremerton. The group met at the USO facility at the San Diego Airport and were bused to the ship docked at the Coronado Naval Airbase. We cleared security and were guided to the officers wardroom were we met out host, Lt. Michelle Mayer.
All of the aircraft and the air crews had departed the ship earlier that morning so our group was assigned berthing in the pilot’s staterooms The officer’s wardroom and the officer’s mess would be our gathering point for the trip. We all felt the VIP treatment was very special. Needless to say, the food was great and a temptation to over indulge.
On Thursday the 11th we met at 06:30 for breakfast and Lt. Mayer gave us a list of the activities for the day. Since there were nearly 400 Tigers on board there were a lot of displays and events on the hanger deck all day. We all chose to go up to the flight deck and watch the departure at 09:35. At 13:00 hours the ammunition supply ship, T-AKE 6 Amelia Earhart, came along side and the aircraft munitions were transferred from the Stennis by a HH-60H Seahawk helicopter. It took nearly four hours for the transfer of the bombs, missiles and other ordnance. Fun to watch.
We were kept busy every day with several tours to various parts of the ship. On Friday there was a brief airshow by three F-18 jets from Lemoore Naval Air Station. They made several very loud close passes.
Our host, Lt. Mayer is not only a P-3 pilot but also a “Shooter” responsible for launching the aircraft as well as being responsible for the transfer and storage of all the aircraft fuel. 134 crew members report to her taking care of a million gallons of fuel. She took our group on a special tour of the aircraft launch bubble, the arresting cable controls and down to the fuel storage control room. Very impressive.
On Sunday we entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca in dense fog. Not much to see until we were near Port Townsend when the fog cleared to a beautiful sunny, warm day. The ship was greeted from shore along the way with flag waving, fireworks and horns honking. The sailors manned the deck at attention in their dress white uniforms. It made us all feel very proud of our navy friends and the USS John C. Stennis.
The Tiger Cruise was a great opportunity to see firsthand what it is like to live aboard and operate such a massive complex warship. During their nearly seven month deployment, the sailors aboard John C. Stennis have the numbers to back up their hard work. They performed more than 8,500 aircraft launches and recoveries, and conducted 30 replenishments at sea. The pilots of CVW-9 accumulated more than 19,600 flight hours.
This was a great trip for us to learn and better understand our modern U.S. Navy’s mission in such a changing world. – Fred Nelson