USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3 recently wrapped up a grueling 45-day underway period that certified the ship and airwing as "ready to deploy."
This past underway consisted of three parts: TSTA (Tailored Ship's Training Availability) III, which trained the ship's crew to fight as a team; the Final Evaluation Phase (FEP) tested the ship and airwing together and finally; Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX), which tested how HST and the airwing performed as part of a battle group.
Shortly after beginning the exercise, the ship received a surprise visitor -- former President George Herbert Walker Bush, who came aboard HST Aug. 27-28 to meet Sailors and Marines of the ship and airwing. Bush toured various ship spaces, but what really impressed this former Naval aviator most was what he witnessed on the flight deck during night ops.
"What I saw on the flight deck was teamwork, in the dark, of the men and pilots and everyone else. It was unbelievable. The ship has a soul ... a spirit," said Bush.
After Bush departed, it was back to business with the FEP, an intense battery of ship-wide drills, which included mass casualty and fire drills, peppered with chemical, biological and radiological defense drills and a mass conflagration from multiple missile strikes.
"FEP is a major event in a ship's IDTC (Inter-Deployment Training Cycle)," said Lt. Cmdr Donna M. Kaspar, HST's training officer. "Our FEP grades will make up a large portion of our score in the competition for the Battle 'E.'" HST/CVW-3 completed FEP Sept. 1.
"Damage control-wise, you scored an 'excellent,' which is very good," remarked Chief Damage Controlman(SW) William Phoenix, damage control team leader for Afloat Training Group. "DCTT (damage control training team) made great improvements coming together and being able to integrate with all the other training teams on the ship."The next step was COMPTUEX, the intermediate phase of the work-up cycle, which kicked off Sept. 3.
An intermediate-level exercise, COMPTUEX is designed to test the battle group's ability to perform together as a cohesive unit and was the final certification to deploy overseas.
Completion of COMPTUEX also certified HST and CVW-3 as qualified for open ocean operations.
During the exercise, the six destroyers and frigates of Destroyer Squadron 22, USS Briscoe (DD 977), USS Deyo (DD 989), USS Donald Cook (DDG 75), USS Hawes (FFG 53), USS Mitscher (DDG 57) and USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79) as well as USS San Jacinto (CG 56) successfully qualified in Naval Surface Fire Support operations. In addition, CVW-3's F-14 Tomcat and F/A-18 Hornet squadrons qualified in air to ground operations, utilizing both the island of Vieques and two open ocean operating areas.
The HST/CVW 3 team paused from work-up exercises Sept. 11, 2002 to mark the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Two events took place, one to show opposition to terrorism, the other to remember those lost. The ceremonies were held on the ship's flight deck while at sea in the Puerto Rican operating area.
The first ceremony took place at sunrise with the raising of the first Navy Jack. The second ceremony took place later in the day and concluded with a bell ringing on the flight deck, one bong to remember each attack.
Three severe weather systems prevented the battle group from completing the Final Battle Problem and threatened to change the course of the remainder of the underway. To avoid the storms, the HST/CVW 3 team wrapped up COMPTUEX a few days early.
According to Rear Adm. John D. Stufflebeem, Commander, Carrier Group 2, despite the early termination of exercises, the carrier and air wing are ready for deployment.
"Both Truman and the crew of Truman really shined brightly. In the context of working with the rest of the battle group, everything really came together. A lot of that was facilitated by what was done on the Truman," said Stufflebeem.
After COMPTUEX, HST anchored off the coast of Key West, Fla., for it's off-again/on-again scheduled port visit. While in town, Sailors from HST/CVW 3 were able to unwind in the tropical climate and warm sea breezes. One mandatory stop was Duval Street, which is lined with shops and restaurants. Sailors also checked out a large buoy on the Atlantic side of the island which indicates the "southernmost point" in Key West and the southernmost point of the continental United States, a spot that lies only 90 miles from the coast of Cuba.
HST now stands down for a short period before beginning Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX), which will take the HST/CVW 3 team to the next level, working with multinational forces.
For related news, visit the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75.