Twenty folks assembled 19 October for a tour of the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). We did our normal carpool from the Safeway lot to the pier. As usual, Byron Faber had it arranged perfectly.
1,092 feet in length
260,000 Shaft HP from two reactors and four steam turbines
3,200 crew with an air wing of an additional 2,400 when embarked
A flight deck of about 4.5 acres
About sixty-five aircraft
The ship is named for Sen. John C. Stennis of Mississippi who chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee, and was a strong friend of the military. We saw an incredible little compartment dedicated to his memory, full of paintings, plaques and other items reflective of his service.
We boarded via the enlisted brow and were met by LCDR Martin, the PAO. He and his team gave us the important warnings regarding ladders, knee-knockers and all the hazards of a ship in the yards. There were pipes, wires and conduit everywhere and I felt that we were lucky to be invited with so much work in progress.
After attempting to grasp the immensity of the hangar bays, we went directly to the O-2 level and the fo’c’sle. We were greeted there by BM2 Brian Miranda-Perez who gave us a remarkable overview of the anchors, windlasses, capstans, brakes and chain, along with the many techniques and hazards of handling them. He also gave us a nice description of all the ceremonies that occur, and have occurred (including baptisms!) in this special space.
We got a good look at the navigation bridge, flight deck, “dirty shirt” wardroom, Admiral’s Country and a plethora of the equipment needed to conduct flight ops for extended periods. They were exercising the jet blast deflectors (JBds) on the waist catapults. We returned to the hangar deck, said good-bye to our hosts and exited via the quarterdeck and officers’ brow. I didn’t hear of one knee being knocked or a head bumped. We didn’t quite look like General Quarters on the ladders but we were safe in navigating them.
I’m always amazed at how a carrier is in port differs from one at sea, while conducting flight ops with 40-plus aircraft engines turning. The O-3 level (the one with all the knee-knockers) was quiet compared to while underway with so much activity occurring a foot above one’s ears.
Our hosts did a very good job showing us their ship. I’d never been aboard Stennis and came away with tremendous appreciation for her complexity and mission. I’m glad she’s homeported here.
Godspeed, USS Stennis and her devoted crew who operate in one of the most dangerous environments anywhere on the planet. I’m always dazzled that the average age is about twenty-three, a testament to their level of training. – Patrick Noonan