Kitty Hawk wraps up 3 weeks underway
Annual exercise combines air, undersea, surface elements

Navy Journalist Dino W. Buchanan, USS Kitty Hawk Public Affairs Office

YOKOSUKA, Japan -- The USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) Battle Group returned to Yokosuka Nov. 10 after completing nearly three weeks of at-sea training, finishing with an annual bilateral military exercise with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force.

Approximately 8,000 Sailors participated in Annualex 11G, which combines air, undersea and surface warfare components of the U.S. Navy and JMSDF to improve cooperation and enhance combined military relations.  Various elements of the battle group and Carrier Air Wing Five also participated in the exercise.  The exercise focuses on honing the skills needed for both countries to jointly defend Japan against external aggression.

Prior to the exercise, the battle group took part in the military exercise Foal Eagle 99, which is a bilateral, combined exercise with the Republic of Korea.

"In almost three weeks of flight operations the ship and air wing safely completed nearly 1,200 sorties and 1,000 night landings," said Lt. Cmdr. Mike Harber, the operations officer of the air wing.

"We’ve had a very, very successful three-week period," said Capt. Matthew Tuohy, Kitty Hawk’s commanding officer.   "We’ve done a lot of stuff in three weeks and done it very well.   Everyone on the ship and air group should be proud of their accomplishments during this time."

"We really went all out this year," Operations Specialist Chief Pat Rivers said of the ship’s attempts to evade detection and attack by the exercise’s aggressor forces (which included a total of eight submarines, numerous surface ships and P-3 Orion aircraft).  "We didn’t get ‘hit’ until 11:30 a.m. Tuesday - 30 minutes prior to the exercise ending."

But the Sailors in the operations department weren’t the only ones kept busy during the underway period.  One of the busiest departments throughout both exercises was engineering, maintaining a close eye on Hawk’s propulsion systems and machinery.

"We worked hard every day for three weeks," said Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Nathan Rice, who works in number three main machinery room.  "We had to qualify a lot of new people in our space, plus we worked hard keeping the plant on line.  We also made repairs and conducted planned maintenance on just about all the equipment down here.  (Engineering Casualty) drills kept us running hard, day and night."

According to Rice this at-sea period was the perfect training ground for all new members.

"We had emergent tasks pop up nearly every day and everyone worked to make sure the ship kept cruising," Rice said.   "New (people) got the best training imaginable.  They couldn’t get all this hands-on training with the ship tied to the pier."

"It’s been hard and sometimes we’ve felt like the Energizer Bunny," said Machinist's Mate 1st Class Craig Sevon.  "Standing watches, getting qualifications, training new people and making repairs; we’ve been busy since the minute we left the pier."

Sevon feels the long hours spent in the engineering spaces have helped the plant in the long term.  "All the hard work our guys have put in is paying off.  The general plant looks 100 percent better (than when we left Yokosuka) and with our young guys getting qualified, our space and ship systems work better."

Kitty Hawk is America’s only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier, operating from Yokosuka, Japan.