USS KITTY HAWK, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), with elements of the Kitty Hawk Strike Group, returned to her forward-deployed operating port of Yokosuka, Japan, Sept. 7, after 48 days underway in support of Summer Pulse '04, and routine readiness training.
Kitty Hawk and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 Sailors departed Yokosuka July 19 to participate in exercises and inspections under way, which maintained and demonstrated the efficiency and readiness of the Kitty Hawk/CVW-5 team.
Summer Pulse '04 was the Navy's first implementation of the new Fleet Response Plan (FRP). It was designed and implemented to demonstrate the readiness and flexibility of America's deployable naval forces to respond to a crisis in the event of an emergent situation anywhere in the world.
"Summer Pulse '04 and the [FRP] are not about how often and how long we can deploy," said Rear Adm. James D. Kelly, Kitty Hawk Carrier Strike Group (CSG) commander. "They are about being able to answer the nation's call in force - six CSGs in 30 days and two more within three months - by providing credible combat power where and when it is needed. Summer Pulse '04 is the proof of our readiness."
Kitty Hawk Sailors wasted no time getting to work on the first of many hurdles it would jump by the end of the underway period. One of the first assessments of Kitty Hawk was a Maintenance and Materials Management (3M) Inspection.
The Commander, Naval Air Forces 3M assessment team began reviewing the ship's 3M system the same day Kitty Hawk left port, and in keeping with Kitty Hawk's proud tradition, the ship made another mark in history by scoring a 95 percent on the inspection.
"The fact that we scored the highest score ever awarded a carrier and we were the only West Coast carrier to pass on the first try speaks volumes about how effective the crew is," said Kitty Hawk's commanding officer, Capt. Thomas A. Parker. "I am most delighted with the results of the 3M inspection."
While inspections were going on all around the ship, flight deck crewmembers and embarked squadron air crew were conducting routine carrier qualifications (CQ).
CQs are completed during the first few days of an underway period to re-qualify both air and flight deck crews on launching and recovering aircraft.
"It starts back at the field. We have a series of qualifications we have to go through," Lt. Cmdr. Richard Rivera, of CVW-5 strike operations, said. "Once those qualifications are met, we get out here on the ship."
CVW-5 moved straight from completing its CQ into normal cyclic operations, joining forces with the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) CSG to conduct Joint Air and Sea Exercise (JASEX) '04 beginning Aug. 8.
JASEX provided a way for the United States to demonstrate its commitment to peace and stability in the western Pacific Ocean in a unique joint training environment.
"We did joint operations with the Stennis air wing and with the Air Force [18th Wing] out of Kadena [Air Base, Japan]," said Capt. Joseph Aucoin, commander of CVW-5. "We were able to simulate some very realistic training."
"It was very useful for us, as far as tactical interoperability with another aircraft carrier," Parker added. "We are just proud and delighted to have played a small part in the success of the overall mission."
After completing exercises with the Stennis CSG, Kitty Hawk Sailors prepared for another inspection before heading to Guam for a brief port visit.
Kitty Hawk completed Tailored Ship's Training Availability (TSTA) Phase III Aug. 15. The nine-day evolution trained the crew in critical damage control exercises.
Numerous training teams throughout the ship ensure that personnel are meeting the standards set for ship-wide drills such as General Quarters, which tests the crew's capability to meet damage control standards.
When the Afloat Training Group Pacific (ATGPAC) assessment team arrived aboard Kitty Hawk, the crew was already at a very high level of readiness, explained Damage Controlman 1st Class (SW) Robert Weeks, an ATGPAC team member.
"When we first showed up here, the crew was already at a [phase III] level. The crew did really, really well during the assessment," said Weeks at the conclusion of TSTA III and FEP.
"We got an outstanding score, 377 out of 400," said Kitty Hawk's executive officer, Cmdr. Gary Peterson. "I'm told that no other carrier has scored better than us under the FEP scoring system."
Shortly after the inspection ended, Kitty Hawk Sailors got some well-earned rest and relaxation on Guam when Kitty Hawk pulled into Naval Forces Marianas Support Activity Aug. 19.
Many Sailors enjoyed the opportunity to take in the island's scenic attractions and also to participate in community service projects, one of which allowed Sailors a chance to help bring supplies to houses for those who are less fortunate.
"I enjoy helping others, and events such as this foster good relations between the Navy and the local community," said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class (SW/AW) Curtis Foster of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 115. Foster was one of 15 air wing Sailors who participated in an Aug. 21 community service project at the Habitat for Humanity center in the town of Beno. They helped other Habitat volunteers bring furniture and supplies to houses being built for those who cannot afford to build homes of their own.
Kitty Hawk had initially been scheduled to stay in Guam for several days, but was forced to depart the island early due to the approach of Super Typhoon Chaba, which took a turn directly toward the island.
As CVW-5 negotiated the weather outside, there was yet one final major inspection deep inside the ship - the SMI, or supply management inspection, in which a team of inspectors from Naval Air Forces Pacific in San Diego conducted a detailed look to see if the supply department was up to standards in all areas of responsibility.
"They're as good as any carrier supply department in the fleet," said Cmdr. Andy Mueck, lead SMI inspector. "Every supply division scored an outstanding or excellent in each inspected category."
Back on the flight deck and in the air, pilots and crewmembers participated in bombing exercises on two different target ranges. Aucoin said this specific type of training is essential to the mission of CVW-5 and Kitty Hawk.
"The primary mission of a carrier is to be able go to a coastline and then send airplanes over the beach to put their bombs on target," said Aucoin. "We need to be able to complete the end game and put the bombs on target. That requires training. That's what we've been doing for the last couple weeks. We've had our 'ordies' (ordnancemen) load bombs on airplanes and train in different environments."
Kitty Hawk continued flight operations until CVW-5 began sending airplanes back to Atsugi Naval Air Facility Sat. Sept. 4 in preparation for the ship's return to Yokosuka.
Upon returning, Kitty Hawk will undergo routine repairs during a Selective Restricted Availability.
"Success breeds success, failure breeds failure," Parker added, reflecting on the entire underway period. "Based on the leadership of the XO, department heads, and the intense devotion of all Sailors on board, we have been very successful by every measure of excellence.
"I call it 'an outbreak of excellence' on the Battle Cat, and it's reflected by every conceivable measure that our bosses have at COMNAV [Commander, U.S. Naval] Air Forces," Parker said, referring to the Kitty Hawk by its nickname. "Kitty Hawk, although the oldest ship in the fleet, is just as capable as any carrier in the fleet, and better than most."
The Kitty Hawk Strike Group is the largest carrier strike group in the Navy and is composed of the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, CVW-5, the guided-missile cruisers USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) and USS Cowpens (CG 63), and Destroyer Squadron 15.
Destroyer Squadron 15 is comprised of the guided-missile cruiser USS Vincennes (CG 49), guided-missile destroyers USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), the destroyer USS Cushing (DD 985), and the fast frigates USS Vandegrift (FFG 48) and USS Gary (FFG 51).
CVW-5 aircraft returned to Atsugi, Japan, Sept. 4. Also returning Sept. 7 are USS Vincennes and USS Gary.
For related news, visit the USS Kitty Hawk Strike Group Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cv63.