The crew of more than 5,000 Sailors are getting underway to steam halfway around the world, prepared to execute whatever tasking is handed down from higher authority.
Unfortunately, as world demand has increased predictable underway schedules have become less common, leaving Sailors and their families unsure of when they will see each other - or when they will have to say goodbye - again.
The crew of USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) certainly understands this dilemma. After spending the first half of 2011 completing training and certification, the ship departed Naval Base Kitsap, Wash. in July for a scheduled seven-month deployment to support Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
They returned home in March of 2012. Designated as the surge-ready carrier, the commanding officer was notified a mere four months after returning that the ship needed to deploy in August to the 5th Fleet area of operations.
The crew of Stennis spent eight months serving as the primary platform for aviation support to coalition forces in Afghanistan and returned to Bremerton, Wash., in May 2013 to start a 16-month dry dock period.
"While this has been a challenging tempo, our crew has answered the call every time, and, along with the men and women of Carrier Air Wing 9, was recognized as the 2012 Ramage Award winners for carrier and air wing operational excellence," said Stennis Commanding Officer Capt. Mike Wettlaufer.
Navy leaders saw similar scenarios happening to other ships and decided to do something about it.
At the 2014 Surface Navy Association Symposium, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command Adm. Bill Gortney unveiled the Navy's new optimized fleet response plan (O-FRP), a plan that addresses quality of service through quality of work and quality of life. The plan intends to provide the Sailors and their families with more stability and predictability.
"We have to go get our force generation model back under control and get our deployment lengths and our quality of our service for Sailors and their families back into an acceptable norm," said Gortney.
He explained the force generation model, in this case O-FRP, includes manning, training and predictable deployment schedules. He said the Navy's previous FRP required a six-month deployment in a 24-month cycle, with more time at sea in between deployments for training.
However, increasing demands for naval forces often extended those deployment times, so much so, that now the current average is an eight-month deployment, especially for ballistic missile defense forces, carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups. Under the new O-FRP, Sailors will be able to count on one eight-month deployment in a three-year period.
Some Sailors in the fleet, like Logistics Specialist 3rd Class Eddie White serving aboard Stennis, look forward to the schedule this plan offers.