USS JOHN C. STENNIS, At sea, (NNS) -- USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) Carrier Strike Group (JCSSG) began conducting combat-simulated flight operations over Guam Feb 4.
Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 pilots are honing their skills prior to entering the U.S. 5th Fleet's Area of Responsibility (AOR).
Guam has been an asset to the U.S. military since the 1800s. It is strategically located between North America and Asia. The island was briefly taken over during World War II by the Japanese, but recovered by U.S. forces in 1944. It continues to be among the most strategic military locations in the Pacific.
The current flight missions are scheduled to be the last over-land training opportunity for the squadrons to drop live ammunition before the strike group enters U.S. 5th Fleet's AOR later this month.
"We're here to hone our air-to-ground skills one last time," said Commander, CVW-9, Capt. Sterling Gilliam. "The next over-land flying we do could be operational in nature."
The flight operations lasted four days and all of CVW-9's squadrons played a major role in the training. The current flight missions are using specific combat tactics molded around the current missions required in 5th Fleet's AOR.
"We're simulating the things we'll be doing in Iraq," said Lt. Tyler Tennille, a pilot with the "Black Knights" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154. "We want to have everybody get a lot of things standardized and make sure the tactics we've been using work well."
The operations over Guam came after a series of no-fly days due to the ship's high-speed transit.
Gilliam said the crew has taken advantage of the ship's no-fly days with ground proficiency training, especially ordnance handling, and combat-flight tactics. He said he's confident the ship will leave the Guam operating area current and proficient in training.
Stennis finished conducting flight operations over Guam Feb. 7 and began transiting west to provide support for U.S. and coalition forces operating in 5th Fleet.
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