ABOARD USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (NNS) -- The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) Carrier Strike Group (CSG) completed an eight-day Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) 06-2 "Operation Bold Step," July 28, off the East Coast, testing the CSG's ability to operate alongside other U.S. forces and coalition partners in a complex, hostile environment.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier and embarked Commander, Carrier Strike Group 8, Commander, Destroyer Squadron (CDS) 28 and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 got underway from Naval Station Norfolk July 18, and after several days of conducting carrier qualifications for the air wing's pilots, joined with other forces and commenced the exercise.
While JTFEX served as the forward-certifying event for the Eisenhower CSG, it also functioned as sustainment training for units from the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) CSG and USS Bataan (LHD 5) Expeditionary Strike Group. More than 16,000 service members from five countries participated in JTFEX.
"The Sailors from the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group worked hard together to make JTFEX a success in every way possible," said Rear Adm. Al Myers, commander, Carrier Strike Group 8. "We are ready for any mission, any time, and I look forward to deploying with what I sincerely believe is the best warfighting team on the waterfront."
"We use the entire strike group assets to exercise our capabilities in three major warfare areas, including air, surface and subsurface operations," said Chief Warrant Officer Mike Meyers, a Combat Direction Center tactical action officer aboard Eisenhower.
"Basically, we support the strike group through air assets whether it is over water or conducting air strikes ashore," said Lt. Wrenn Landers, a pilot with Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 103, the "Jolly Rogers." "The large-force strikes are when you really see teamwork take place."
The purpose of the exercise is to ensure that the strike group is ready to face any scenario on deployment, including situations encountered during maritime security operations (MSO).
MSO set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. MSO deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other illegal material.
"It's been a stressful event, and we've had fantastic internal training for it," said USS Mason (DDG 87) Commanding Officer, Cmdr. John Fuller, whose crew experienced scenarios involving a range of tasks from dealing with hostile aggressors to rescuing civilians at sea. "Externally, we've learned how to work with other ships, and I am really impressed with how the crew on board Mason has come together and grown as a team. We are very effective and efficient in executing our mission. We're doing it safely, and JTFEX has been an incredible confidence builder for the crew."
The situations that the strike group encountered during JTFEX were fictitious scenarios, but it was important to treat the events as a real situation.
"We are transforming to wartime situations and to the mindset of being prepared for anything," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 1st class Brian Lewis, a flight deck leading petty officer. "Real time training scenarios help us to work through any obstacles that we might face."
"We were really busy, but it prepared me for deployment and the changes in tempo and environment," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Mario Johnson, who will deploy for the first time aboard Eisenhower.
"We had an exceptionally successful at sea period. We not only demonstrated to the fleet commanders that we're ready to go forth and serve with our coalition partners, we proved to ourselves that we're ready to deploy," said Capt. Dan Cloyd, Eisenhower's commanding officer. "We are ready to go anywhere in the world."
"With the speed, agility and persistence of a modern carrier strike group, we intend to make a difference," said Myers.
CCSG 8 is comprised of Dwight D. Eisenhower, CDS 28, guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio (CG 68), guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage (DDG 61), guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87), Los Angeles-class submarine USS Newport News (SSN 750) and fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8) for their upcoming deployment.
CVW-7 includes Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 125 "Tigertails," VFA-103, VFA-131 "Wildcats," VFA-143 "Pukin' Dogs," VFA-83 "Rampagers," Electronic Attack (VAQ) Squadron 140 "Patriots," and Helicopter Anti-submarine (HS) 5 "Nightdippers."
For related news, visit the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn69/.