On September 17, 2015 council members and guests were warmly welcomed for a tour of USS John C. Stennis CVN 74 in Bremerton. Some of us have toured the ship before but it is always a pleasure and privilege to return. And this time was no different.
From Ordnance Control we went down several decks to one of the magazines where ordnance is stored, built and handled. Although there was no live ordnance on board at this time there was an amazing display of inert rockets, bombs and missiles to show examples of the weapons carried. Each is essentially a basic unit to which components are added at both ends to customize it for a particular mission. Anything from totally unguided to essentially pin point accuracy can be built as directed in minutes. While there we also saw a display of small arms (rifles, pistols and machine guns) that are used when required. It is interesting to consider that munitions we recently saw at Naval Magazine Indian Island could wind up in a magazine aboard Stennis.
Stennis Commanding Officer Capt. Mike Wettlaufer joined us briefly at this point to welcome us aboard and tell us about the ship. He proudly noted that the ship and crew had successfully completed a quarter’s worth of underway training in just a month, including joint work with the Army and Air Force. Stennis will be going out for additional short sessions of readiness training and is standing by for deployment order.
Following our time with Capt. Wettlaufer, we went below again to room number 3 of 5 arresting gear engine rooms, another new tour stop for us. Each of the four arresting gear wires on deck, as well as the crash barrier, is connected to machinery in these engine rooms which is calibrated for each aircraft catch. The cable is controlled by huge air and hydraulic pistons. Room number 3 is usually the busiest as wire number 3 is the “target” for landing aircraft and is the one most used. During aircraft operations there are approximately 80 catches every day. A major improvement in what is otherwise immediately post WW II technology was the installation in 2006 of an electronic readout system that greatly simplified the calculations of required system settings for each aircraft landing.
Our last tour stop was a familiar one, but still a most interesting one, Flight Deck Control. Here WWII era “technology” is also used on the ouija board manual deck layout and tracking arrangement. It still works using small cut out scale models of the various aircraft types and additional pieces as simple as nuts and push pins to designate location and status. Aircraft handlers, elevator operators, and other flight deck personnel wear different colored jerseys to designate their function on deck. Yellow, blue, green, purple, brown, red and white are used. Most active aircraft are either in flight or stored on deck. Usually only those requiring repair or maintenance are sent below. It is hard to imagine what it must be like on a dark, stormy night in blackout conditions during flight operations. But this is what they do, and they do it well.
We left Flight Deck Control and reassembled in the Ward Room where we enjoyed a great lunch from the ship’s galley. Disappointingly the ship’s store was not open at this time so we headed back down to the pier and returned to our cars concluding this great tour. We should all be proud that USS John C. Stennis and crew are serving us at this critical time. Our thanks to them for their service and the tour. And as always thanks to Byron Faber for putting it all together. -Norman Marten