With USS John C. Stennis CVN 74 having just returned to Bremerton from a long deployment on August 14th and already in a major maintenance period it was a special privilege for a group of Navy League members and guests to be able to tour the ship on September 20, 2016. Although commanding officer CAPT Gregory Huffman was away from the ship we were warmly welcomed aboard by newly appointed executive officer CAPT Scott Miller and personnel from the ship’s media relations group. CAPT Huffman’s wife, Judy, did join us for the tour.
We first heard a safety briefing about watching for places where head injury could occur as well as a “heads up” about not tripping while negotiating the raised bulkhead at passageway openings. The overall damage control process was also explained including information about the various items around the ship painted red. And even though there is a basic group of sailors immediately responsible for firefighting should there be a fire then all hands become firefighters and are trained to do so.
Our first stop on the tour was the Ship’s Store where a brisk business in ball caps and other items was conducted. The MWR program benefits from the proceeds. Along the way to our next stop, the hangar bay, we passed through a closed galley which is a busy place when the ship is underway. At full complement, including the air wing, there are 5,000 personnel on board and 15,000 meals are served each day. An amazing effort…particularly considering it is every day.
In the hangar bay, used for aircraft storage and repair, it was noted that the area is used to get aircraft out of the weather. The US Navy can rebuild a jet engine while at sea if necessary using on board facilities and the Navy is considered to be the best in the world at doing this. Four aircraft elevators at various locations around the perimeter of the ship can go up or down in 4-5 seconds and can handle more than one aircraft at a time. The mechanism for underway replenishment is located in the hanger bay and its operation was described to us. Maintaining a parallel course while at operating speed with two ships almost next to each other is an important, but necessary task, as supplies such as fuel for the aircraft and food for the crew must be resupplied from time to time.
On the flight deck, where resurfacing was in progress, it was explained that four catapults are available for use and that during the day there can be a launch every minute. At night every two minutes. Every day there are approximately 140 sorties. Fueling and arming/rearming is done only on the flight deck. Arresting gear, consisting of 4 “wires” – the third being the optimum one – takes care of landing. During the launch of an F/A-18 there is a “no hands on controls” rule at take off…the computer controls react faster (and better) than a human at this critical moment.
Because much of the rest of the ship was undergoing maintenance that would compromise our safety the tour necessarily concluded here. But just viewing the Stennis from the pier is something not to be soon forgotten. And as a bonus we were able to view the newly painted USS Nimitz CVN 68 just across the way.
Thank you to everyone aboard Stennis and to Byron Faber for arranging another super tour.