USS JOHN C. STENNIS, at sea (NNS) -- The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSCSG) successfully completed Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) off the coast of Southern California Nov. 16.
The exercise tested JCSCSG's three main assets -- USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 21 -- on their abilities to perform strike warfare, anti-submarine warfare and anti-air warfare in a joint-forces environment.
Commander, 3rd Fleet, assisted by Strike Force Training Pacific, evaluated the strike group's performance.
"We're testing their joint interoperability and execution inside of a joint operational area," said Commander, 3rd Fleet Air Training Officer Cmdr. Vic Weber. "Ultimately, we give them a scenario, and they react as best they can. They start out in normal operations, with the peacetime rules of engagement in effect, and it gradually ramps up into a full-blown battle."
Several Air Force squadrons and ships from Canada and Chile were injected into the exercise to create a joint environment, said Weber.
"Completing JTFEX prepares us to operate with other forces," said Commander, Carrier Strike Group 3 Rear Adm. Mark Vance. "Anytime we go into combat, we would go in as a coalition force vice just a U.S. Navy force."
Through the JTFEX evolutions, participating forces train to close the seams between services and between nations.
"When we work with either coalition forces or sister services, they have their own nuances," said Stennis Operations Officer Cmdr. Don Glatt. "We do things a little differently in each service, and these exercises allow us to come together and learn those differences and figure out how we're going to work through those differences in an actual conflict."
Communications are a main focus during the exercise.
"We're able to resolve [communcations] issues during JTFEX prior to deployment," said HMCS Winnipeg Commanding Officer Canadian Navy Cmdr. Craig Baines. "We want to be integrated, interoperable and indistinguishable."
The ability of the strike group to work together as a cohesive unit was put to the test when evaluators use unscripted simulations to present the strike group with realistic threats from each warfare area.
"Each of my warfare commanders got a chance to work through their tactics, techniques and procedures, and they got better each time we got a chance to exercise those," said Vance.
In a coalition environment, it's important to understand how each unit's actions effect the whole effort.
"Each of us has a little piece of the big picture, and it's very important that we all feed that into a central module so everyone can see the big picture," said Glatt. "That way, we can fight the fight and win."
"We all learned a great deal, and most of all we learned to operate as a team," said Stennis Commanding Officer Capt. Joseph Kuzmick. "As much as anything else, you get confidence from doing this and seeing that you really can make it all come together. We learned to push our equipment to the limits, and we learned how to deal with almost anything."
JTFEX is the last pre-deployment exercise the JCSCSG had to complete before deployment. With JTFEX complete, the strike group is certified as ready for major combat operations, fully prepared to deploy in support of America's Maritime Strategy.
For more news from USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn74/.