Kitty Hawk, airwing complete underway training
Aircraft carrier undergoes 12 days of qualifications and drills

Navy journalist Mark Savage, USS Kitty Hawk Public Affairs

YOKOSUKA, Japan -- America’s only permanently forward deployed aircraft carrier returned to Yokosuka, Japan, March 6 after completing 12 days of sea trials and carrier qualifications.

USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) departed Yokosuka Feb. 23 and rendezvoused at sea with Carrier Air Wing 5, which operates from Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan.

During this underway period, the Hawk/Five team tested everything from the newly revamped flight deck to the refurbished boilers in engineering.  They also put the crew’s capabilities to the test during several general quarters, man overboard and fire drills.

"We’re like a knife-edge that dulls over time in port," said Capt. Matthew Tuohy, Kitty Hawk’s commanding officer.   "We came out and did this and we honed that edge back to razor-sharp, like it was when we came off the last deployment.  And now we’re sitting exactly where we need to be."

Kitty Hawk returned from a no-notice, six-month deployment to the Arabian Gulf in August.  The Hawk/Five team participated in Exercises Foal Eagle with the Republic of Korean and ANNUALEX 11-G with Japan, returning Nov. 10.  The ship had been in port conducting maintenance until it got underway Feb. 23 for the current set of sea trials.

During the sea trials, flight deck crews launched and recovered more than 1,100 launches and recoveries of CVW-5 aircraft. 

Matthew Munn, a naval flight officer from Woodbridge, Va., who flies with VAQ-136, could tell that a lot of people still needed training at first, but the unfamiliarity was short-lived, he said. 

"After that, everything ran really smoothly because everybody got back into the flow of things and everyone was learning their job," he said.  "These last couple of days, the flight deck crew averaged 160 traps in a four to five-hour period."

As the planes were taking off and landing, V-2 Division’s Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Tanya Howe, from Buckeye, Ariz., was one of many people operating the bow catapults.  She said the at-sea period was stressful, but it was also a good learning experience. 

"There was a lot of maintenance, but it was all part of getting the bugs out," she said.

Kitty Hawk Sailors also used the sea trials as an opportunity to run general quarters drills which tests the ability to combat fires, flooding and battle damage.  Drills focused on repair locker manning and setting material conditions Zebra and Yoke, which help maintain the ship’s watertight integrity. 

"The purpose of (setting Zebra) was to take a look at where all our watertight doors and other Zebra fittings are and what their conditions are," said Bloomington, Ind., native Cmdr. Tony Smith, Kitty Hawk’s first lieutenant.

The damage control teams also fought simulated fires, "So each of the repair lockers, with all of their new people, could say, ‘here’s what our new positions are and this is what we need to be thinking about,’" said Smith.

In addition to general quarters, the crew participated in other types of training, like mass casualty drills, main engineering space fire drills and flooding drills.  "We started with the basic drills to make sure the new people are getting the basics they need to do what is expected of them," Smith said.  "Then we’ll build on the complexity of the drills and the level of knowledge.  So by October or November, when we’re going for our final evaluation, we’ll be able to perform at a level which is advanced full battle problems."

While Hawk’s crew was being trained and tested, the ship’s equipment got a workout of its own.  Hawk’s boilers went through a five-year inspection while in port that involved removing internal components, cleaning, inspecting and replacing various parts.  During this underway period, the machinist’s mates gave the boilers a shakedown.

"Our boilers performed well," said Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Michael Roberson, of P-4 Division.  "A month ago, the boiler was laying all over the space, and now it does everything it’s supposed to do."

P-4 had some new faces in their division, but according to Roberson, they had positive attitudes about their jobs.  "Our division did just fine," he said.  "There were long hours with (general quarters) and main space fire drills, but a lot of training was accomplished."

There were also new faces throughout the ship – many of whom were underway for the first time.  "It was a little scary at first," said Mess Management Specialist Seaman Angela Morado, from San Diego.   "The first time I saw the ship, it was so overwhelming."  But Morado said she settled into her role aboard Kitty Hawk and is now ready for the challenge that awaits her in the upcoming spring deployment.

The commanding officer noticed how well the new Sailors were integrating into the crew and how well the team was coming together.   "From my perspective, looking on the flight deck or walking through engineering, it’s very difficult to tell who the new people are and who the old people are," Tuohy said.  "The ship and crew performed absolutely magnificently.  The performance and the workmanship of the machinery that we maintained during the last yard period, coupled with the performance of the people operating that equipment at sea really proved that this is the way to run an aircraft carrier!"