Training cycle heats up aboard JCS

CART II down, FRS/CQ, Ammo On-load... Who's next?

by JO3 S. Michael Feller
USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74)
Public Affairs - May 21, 1999

ABOARD JOHN C. STENNIS — Since the completion of its first Phased Incremental Availability (PIA), USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74) and its crew have been busy with sea trials and a recent ammunition on-load.

Now after a short in-port period where the crew completed Command Assessment Readiness and Training (CART) II, the ship and its crew recently got underway for Tailored Ship Training Availability (TSTA) I.

One aspect of TSTA I is damage control training.

“In CART I, the crew’s preparations entailed two areas. One is repair locker training, of which we’ve done numerous General Quarters (GQ) drills. Since December, we’ve done about 20 GQ’s. We’ve had a GQ every Wednesday through most of the PIA and once we got underway, we did upwards of four or five GQ’s every underway in preparation for CART II,” said LCDR Kuo Yang, JCS’ Damage Control Assistant (DCA).

“The other area is Damage Control Training Team (DCTT) training,” added LT David Uson, JCS’ Assistant Damage Control Assistant (ADCA). “I am the DCTT Monitor, which means I am in charge of training DCTT and also running all of the drills during our work-up cycle.”

“Essentially, DCTT is the team that will train the crew as we continue through this work-up cycle and they are also the team that will enable the ship to maintain its proficiency while we are on deployment.

How well the ship does in its ability to be able to respond to emergencies and be able to fight at battle stations during General Quarters is a direct result of DCTT and how well they perform,” added LCDR Yang.

During CART II last week, the ship and its crew went through an intensive series of drill and training evolutions in only two and half days.

However, this week the crew is faced with more challenges and over a greater length of time. Needless to say, the crew is still only in the beginning stages of the work-up cycle.

“TSTA is laid out as TSTA I, II and III, and culminated by FEP, which is the Final Evaluation Period, “ said LCDR Yang. “In other words, FEP is the graduation following training through TSTA’s I, II and III. FEP is scheduled to take place at the end of July.”

“In order to graduate from TSTA I, we have to accomplish 17 objectives. They are fairly basic objectives, but they do need to be completed before we can advance (to TSTA II),” commented LT Uson.

While the crew definitely has several challenges ahead of them, many have confidence the crew will be able to accomplish any task that is thrown their way.

“We have an outstanding crew onboard, and TSTA I will be able to get us to a point where we can accomplish basic tasks for the repair lockers. It will also enable DCTT to train the repair lockers to perform those basic tasks. What it essentially comes down to is repetition and making sure everybody knows what they need to do,” explained LCDR Yang.

While confidence is a plus, knowing the crew’s strengths and weaknesses and knowing what needs work is essential to be successful.

“On DCTT, we are good in certain areas but there are definitely areas where we need to work, one of those is briefing,” said LT Uson. “We have a tendency of adding something into the drill, which wasn’t given during the brief, and we simply can’t do that.

"Strength-wise, we have a lot of motivated personnel on DCTT. However, right now it’s hard to say what our strengths and weaknesses are because most of our drills have been in port. ATG will help us realize what we need to work on and by the end of TSTA I, we will have a much better idea of where we stand,” said Uson.

“In repair lockers, our weak areas include the fact that we have a lot of new personnel on board. We have a near-70% turnover on personnel assigned to repair lockers. What this means is we have to do a lot of training at the most basic levels so that the individuals can learn the skills they need to perform. The strength is we have a lot of motivated people who do an outstanding job. We just need to have the time to train and get everybody qualified,” explained LCDR Yang.

Despite the fact that the crew has an arduous climb ahead of them, LT Uson and LCDR Yang are aware of the crew’s capabilities and they know how to make it all work.

“The training cycle is exactly that,” said LCDR Yang. “It’s working at the basic level, then working ourselves up to the intermediate levels and then finally graduating and demonstrating all the skills and training we have had throughout the training cycle. So, there is nothing to get discouraged about. It’s just that all of this is part of the process. A lot of personnel on board have to be qualified and trained before we can be totally proficient as a team.”

“No matter how many GQ’s we have or how difficult it’s getting, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel,” echoed LT Uson.