USS CARL VINSON, At Sea (NNS) -- Cheers erupted from the hangar bay, as USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) "trapped" an F/A-18C Hornet on the flight deck Oct. 2 off the coast of Southern California.
A long-anticipated moment, the landing marked the aircraft carrier's first flight operations since returning from Operation Enduring Freedom nearly nine months ago.
The event also signified the beginning of Carl Vinson's flight-deck certification, an essential milestone in the carrier's pre-deployment preparations.
"Today, of course, was a big hurdle," said Capt. Brian Neunaber, Carl Vinson's Air Boss. "At this stage in training, carrier qualification for the flight deck is very important. This is the cornerstone for all that follows."
Neunaber emphasized that carrier qualifications are an essential building block in achieving overall mission readiness. "We're building up our abilities, so eventually we'll be able to perform like we did in Operation Enduring Freedom," he said.
To Carl Vinson's advantage, many experienced personnel on board during Enduring Freedom were back on the flight deck, recovering and launching aircraft once again.
"This was a chance for the guys to get back in the saddle, break some rust off, and get back to the point we were at during cruise," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 1st Class (AW) Gregory Seals, from V-1 aircraft handling division.
Coincidentally, Sailors were not only familiar with each other but also with the planes. Thirteen aircraft from Carrier Air Wing Eleven, the air wing that deployed with Carl Vinson last year, came aboard to assist in the certification of the Gold Eagle flight deck.
"Getting back in the saddle" also meant getting back to training, and a large portion of training focused on safety. Working in one of the world's most hazardous occupations, flight-deck personnel operate under extreme conditions.
"Even the smallest malfunction could cause death, so everyone really has to be cautious," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Ryan Reaux, a V-2 catapult topside petty officer. "It's a very serious and dangerous environment out there. Safety comes first."
Neunaber further emphasized that the inherent dangers of the flight deck always pose a risk to his crew. He remains confident, however, in his team's ability to face those challenges and excited to continue flight-deck operations.
Seals and his shipmates on the flight deck shared his enthusiasm: "This is what it's all about - being out to sea and working with the aircraft."
From seven decks above the flight deck, to 10 decks below, the crew combined training and teamwork for a successful start to resumed flight-deck operations.
USS Carl Vinson successfully completed her flight-deck certification Friday, Oct. 4. The next morning, as she returned to Naval Air Station, North Island, the crew "manned the rails" as the ship made a guest appearance in the Fleet Week San Diego Sea-n-Air Parade.
For related news, visit the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn70.