John C. Stennis Standing guard in the Arabian Gulf

by JO2 Marcus Myers
USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74)
Public Affairs - March 14, 1998

ABOARD JOHN C. STENNIS With flawless precision, USS JOHN C. STENNIS(CVN-74) slipped from her pier in Norfolk Va. February 26th on her maiden deployment. She soon left Virginia behind in a wide and churning wake. Quickly slicing her way across the Atlantic Ocean and sprinting through the Mediterranean, USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74), with Carrier Air Wing SEVEN (CVW-7) and Command Carrier Group Six (CCG-6) embarked, arrived on station in the Arabian Gulf Wednesday, March 11, 1998 to relieve the aircraft carrier USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73).

The journey that began on February 26, will take the ship and crew around the world to San Diego, Ca. in six months.

After relieving USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73), USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74) took its place on station in the Arabian Gulf where she will likely remain until relieved in mid-summer. Once relieved of duty in the Arabian Gulf, JOHN C. STENNIS won't return to Norfolk. Instead, the proud vessel named for the great statesman from Mississippi will head for her new homeport, Naval Air Station, North Island in San Diego.

For many crewmembers, leaving Norfolk was an emotional event.

"I left Norfolk thinking about the situation in the Middle East, and knowing that we had to face it. There's a possibility things might get hot and I might not come back home to see my little daughter," said Airman Marlon Jackson, a Brooklyn, N.Y. native who's assigned to Fighter Attack Squadron 143 (VFA-143) of Oceana Va. "I was a little scared when the ship got underway because this is my first six-month deployment and I didn't know what to expect," said Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Jerry J. Ford, a Swainsboro, Ga. native who's assigned to the Sea Operations Detachment homebased at Naval Air Station Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Fl.

To maintain the 2.0 carrier presence in the Gulf mandated by the Secretary of Defense, USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74) had to turn over with USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73) in the Arabian Gulf rather than in the Mediterranean Sea as planned. The crew knew that in order to arrive on time, they had to be on station quickly. But few would have guessed that the ship would make the more than 9000 mile journey so quickly. USS JOHN C. STENNIS arrived in the Gulf three days ahead of schedule. It took the ship only four and a half days to sail from the Chesapeake light tower to the Strait of Gibraltar, crossing the Atlantic faster than any other nuclear powered aircraft carrier. USS JOHN C. STENNIS then steamed through the Mediterranean, only slowing down during the Suez Canal transit and completing a journey that normally takes three weeks in less than thirteen days.

The crew of USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74) knew the ship had to be on location quickly.

"Making the transit this fast was good. The Commanding Officer wouldn't have made the trip this fast if he didn't feel it was necessary," Jackson said. "I wanted to see the world, but I feel getting on station in the Gulf is more important. If anything happens now, we're right here," Ford said.

For the next few months, JOHN C. STENNIS will stand guard in the waters of the Arabian Gulf to enforce the "no fly zone" over Iraq and uphold U.N. sanctions imposed on the country after the Gulf War.

"If anything heats up while we're here, I think we'll be ready to strike. I don't think America should trust Saddam Hussein's word. I think he has something up his sleeve" Jackson said.

Now on station and participating in Operation Southern Watch, JOHN C. STENNIS is definitely ready and capable. With more than 5,000 Sailors and over seventy aircraft, this powerful warship has the firepower necessary to meet any mission tasking. More importantly, the crew trained intensively to meet those taskings as the need for a capable carrier presence is still required.

Captain Douglas R. Roulstone, Commanding Officer of JOHN C. STENNIS, feels the ship and Carrier Airwing SEVEN forms a formidable team and can handle any contingency.

"Without a doubt, I know we are capable of completing any task that may be handed us during our deployment. The crew is outstanding and has responded well and trained hard through exercises and drills, demanding flight operations, and readiness inspections during work ups. I expect the same type of response now. I am fully confident that we are ready for the challenge of standing the watch in the Gulf," Roulstone said.

Airman Jackson, who plays a major role in launching and recovering aircraft, agrees with Captain Roulstone. night lookout

"We trained hard before we deployed and we trained hard during the transit to the Gulf. The Commanding Officer proved our training is working when during our transit the lookouts spotted something in the water and called away a man overboard. Although in the end it was not a person the whole crew pulled together. I know we're ready for anything while we're in the Gulf," said Jackson. "I hope nothing happens where we'll have to put our combat training to use while we're here. But I know that the crew is prepared. We take our drills seriously and we try to do the best we can," agreed Ford, who works with aircraft support equipment.

Although the heat of tensions has decreased in the region, the air temperature continues to climb things will literally be "hot" for the crew of USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74). However, USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74) Battle Group Commander, Rear Admiral Ralph E. Suggs, feels his flagship is fully capable of "cooling things off" if the diplomatic situations heats up again.

"I'm certain that JOHN C. STENNIS is ready and able to handle the arduous duty that lies ahead. Although the Navy has changed throughout the years, the mission has remained the same, strong forward presence. JOHN C. STENNIS is our nation's newest aircraft carrier and is uniquely capable of providing a strong stabilizing presence in the region," Suggs said.

USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74) and Carrier Airwing SEVEN currently stand guard in the volatile region of the Arabian Gulf. But while the "7/74 team" is maintaining a strong presence in the Gulf, the crew evokes Senator Stennis' motto "Look Ahead," and looks to a new homeport in sunny southern California in late August.