ABOARD USS ENTERPRISE (NNS) -- USS Enterprise (CVN 65) (Big E) officially completed the Navy's first test of the Fleet Response Plan, Summer Pulse '04, July 23 when she moored pierside at her homeport of Norfolk Va., after nearly two months at sea.
During Summer Pulse '04, the Big E crew participated in three multinational exercises, hosted many distinguished visitors, stopped for a four-day port visit in Portsmouth, England, and enjoyed a crew-sponsored steel beach picnic to wrap it all up.
Enterprise began the deployment with Exercise Neo Tapon, a multi-national exercise involving NATO members and hosted by Spain. The exercise tested NATO surface warfare, air warfare and strike mission capabilities, as well as the strike group's ability to implement plans quickly.
From there, Enterprise moved to 'distinguished visitor' (DV) tours, hosting 60 distinguished business and civic leaders with the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference (JCOC), a program sponsored by the Secretary of Defense to increase civilian understanding of the military. The program works by providing civic leaders firsthand opportunities to meet Department of Defense and military service senior leaders, as well as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, in an effort to learn more about their lives and missions.
"The Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) detachment, Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40, performed at a level of 100 percent mission completion," said Cmdr. Sam A. McCormick, Enterprise Carrier Strike Group Air operations officer. "They didn't miss a single sortie and flew almost 800 people. They made a special effort to brief each of their crews on how to make the best impression, because the CODs are the first impression," added McCormick. "They came through every single time, never missed a beat."
A steady stream of visitors came to see the aircraft carrier in action during the underway, including Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, Adm. Gregory Johnson; Strike Force NATO and U.S. 6th Fleet Commander, Vice Adm. Harry Ulrich; and numerous other high ranking military officials from Spain, Morocco, the Netherlands, Germany and more.
"I had the pleasure of entertaining a media team out of Spain, and it was a great experience," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Eric E. Richmond, Weapons Department G-1 Division Air gunnery officer. "Being a tour guide was great. I got to show off our great ship and brag about what we do."
After JCOC, Enterprise teamed with allies in the Joint Maritime Course (JMC) sponsored by the British Forces. The JMC allowed Enterprise the opportunity to work in a NATO environment and practice operating jointly with allies to strengthen maritime capabilities. Some of the countries participating in the exercise along with the United States were Norway, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Spain.
The operation featured two stages, a work-up stage and operational stage. The work-up stage consisted of scripted scenarios that allowed Enterprise to interact with her allies in a set environment. From there, Enterprise moved on to the operational phase of JMC. Instead of having scripted scenarios, Big E Sailors were required to respond on their own based on the skills they had just achieved.
The operation concluded successfully, and Enterprise Sailors had the opportunity to enjoy four days of liberty in Portsmouth, England. Sailors participated in activities like the community relations project sponsored by the Religious Ministries Department, tours sponsored by Morale, Welfare and Recreation, a choir performance and a lot of sightseeing. Also, the crew celebrated the Fourth of July while in England.
"I had an opportunity to visit London for the first time," said Cmdr. Kevin C. Kalanta, the ship's dental officer, "and I thoroughly enjoyed Westminster Abbey."
Upon leaving England, Big E immediately steamed south for yet another multinational exercise, MEDSHARK/Majestic Eagle '04 (MS/ME04).
Enterprise, USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), the Italian carrier ITS Garibaldi, and the Spanish carrier SPS Principe De Asturias were four of the 30 ships participating in the NATO-run exercise off the coast of Morocco. Ten nations participated in MS/ME04, a joint maritime exercise that aimed to develop interoperability between the multinational forces involved, while at the same time building future military relationships.
Throughout the exercise, Sailors aboard worked day and night to ensure MS/ME04 was a success.
"We were presenting the picture to the whole strike group, and all of 6th Fleet, said Operations Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Randall S. Barnes, an air watch officer for the strike group.
"Summer Pulse is really a big event for the whole Navy, and everybody wants to know about it. We're making history. We're doing something that's never been tried before," added Barnes, "and we're working with coalition forces, which will help us in the future in regards to ties within NATO."
Members of NATO recognized Enterprise's contributions to the exercise, among them British Royal Navy Rear Adm. Paul Boissier, deputy commander for Strike Force NATO.
"One of the things Boissier said, besides that it was great to have the participation from the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group, was that on Enterprise, he could tell that the crew was extremely professional, friendly and that morale was great," said Enterprise Commanding Officer Capt. Eric C. Neidlinger.
"He also said he really hadn't seen a better ship. That's actually something that many, many people, both civilian and military, say - whether we're in port or at sea. And that's a great testament to the professionalism of the crew and their great attitude," said Neidlinger.
Enterprise completed MS/ME04 July 16, and began the voyage back west.
Enterprise's participation in the multinational exercises was a primary mission of Summer Pulse '04, a demonstration of U.S. capability to deploy multiple carrier strike groups and operate jointly with allies in accordance with the Fleet Response Plan (FRP).
"One of the major things about FRP is that we're out here validating the surge capability. Pulse is not exactly surge, but it validates the premise that we can do it if we need to," said McCormick.
Some of the crew's efforts were specifically recognized in the ranks of senior Navy leadership, namely the photo lab and graphics division of Enterprise's operations department. Throughout the entire underway, they produced posters commemorating Summer Pulse '04, and the major operations Enterprise and her strike group participated in.
"The photo lab has done an amazing job with their posters and displays for Summer Pulse," said McCormick. "Their stuff has gone all the way up to the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Navy level."
In the last couple of days before officially ending Summer Pulse '04, the carrier's crew and embarked squadrons enjoyed a day-long steel beach picnic on the flight deck July 21, complete with barbeque, live music and a variety of activities. Sponsored by Morale, Welfare and Recreation, the Multicultural Heritage Committee, the Enterprise First Class Association and the Junior Sailor Association, the event took several weeks of planning, but according to the commanding officer, the crew deserved it.
"There's nothing this crew doesn't deserve because of the great work they're doing," said Neidlinger.
Throughout the underway, every Sailor in the Enterprise CSG worked hard, putting conscientious effort into the success of Summer Pulse '04, according to McCormick.
"It wasn't because of the fantastic technology. It's because the Sailors were working hard to make it work," said McCormick. "They were coming up with innovative ideas, work-arounds and things that hadn't been tried before. As usual, as with almost every endeavor in the Navy, it's not the technology that wins the day - it's the Sailors that make it happen."
In the months ahead, Enterprise is looking at an extended yard period, to do some 'refresher' work on the ship.
"We have some hard work ahead of us with the Extended Selected Restricted Availability period, as well as continuing to train so we become even better in the future," said Neidlinger.
However, he also added that it would be an opportunity to relax a little from the busy at-sea periods.
"We'll have some time to spend with our families and friends, and time to relax as well," said Neidlinger.
Enterprise left its homeport of Norfolk, Va., June 3.
For more information about Summer Pulse '04, visit the CFFC Web site at www.cffc.navy.mil/summerpulse04.htm or visit the Summer Pulse '04 Navy NewsStand site at www.news.navy.mil/local/pulse04.
For related news, visit the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn65.