USS GEORGE H. W. BUSH, At Sea (NNS) -- USS George H.W. Bush (GHWB)(CVN 77) departed Naval Station Norfolk, Va., Oct. 4 to begin its Tailored Ship's Training Availability/Final Evaluation Period (TSTA/FEP) in preparation for the ship's upcoming combat deployment in 2011.
Twenty-five inspectors from Afloat Training Group (ATG) Atlantic are embarked aboard Bush, assessing the ship's damage control, medical responses, seamanship and navigation, weapons, integrated training teams, and the integration of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 with the ship's Air Department.
Capt. Chip Miller, USS George H.W. Bush commanding officer, said this is a critical evolution for the crew as they continue to prepare for the ship's combat deployment.
"This training exercise will test the ability of the ship and air wing team to fight the ship," Miller said. "Our training teams have put in an incredible amount of time and effort to ensure we hit this out of the park."
TSTA is an assessment of how training is conducted, and aims to develop and enhance the crew's ability to self-train. FEP is an evaluation of the crew's ability to conduct combat missions, support air wing operations while maintaining casualty control, and survive complex casualty control situations, said Lt. Cmdr. Richard D. Johnston, USS George H.W. Bush training officer.
Damage control divisions throughout the ship respond any time, day or night, in port or out to sea, to drills for fires, flooding, and any scenario, staged or real, which could turn into a catastrophic situation.
Chief Damage Controlman (SW/AW) Jason A. Lockenwitz, Damage Control Division leading chief petty officer, said the team of Sailors assigned to respond to the drills and actual casualties while the ship is underway are known as the At Sea Fire Party (ASFP). ASFP must certify in various drills, from fuel-based fire and general fire, to toxic gas and flooding. ASFP must successfully complete seven drills before ATG deems the team is proficient.
During general quarters drills, the entire crew must be certified for their capabilities. The crew will continue to complete the "scheduled GQ drills until ATG deems the ship and its crew proficient in this area," Lockenwitz said.
"The amount of time and effort that the crew and training teams have put into the cycle of this ship is nothing short of exemplary," Lockenwitz said. "The dedication that our Sailors have is clearly evident when outside entities visit and comment about how successful our teams are."
Throughout various drills, inspectors evaluate both the effectiveness of the training teams, and the performance and knowledge of the Sailors actually involved in the training scenarios. They will then forward the results of the assessment to the ship's Immediate Superior in Command (ISIC), the Strike Group Commander, who will then notify Commander, Naval Air Forces Atlantic, to certify the ship.
"This should show ISIC that the ship is ready to be certified as Independent Unit Ready, and proceed to the next training phase," Johnston said.
In May of this year, various departments aboard the ship performed routine drills while ATG inspectors critiqued the performance of the Sailors and their instructors during Command Assessment Readiness Training (CART) II. The ship then conducted TSTA in port; one week of drills primarily focused on damage control and medical response, to address any training discrepancies and to better prepare the crew. TSTA/FEP serves as a time to use the results from CART II to concentrate on the areas that need more attention, Johnston added.
Johnston said that even though the primary reason for being out to sea is TSTA/FEP, an event based mostly around integrating the air wing with the ship, the ship is accompanied by most of the strike group as well.
"Since this is the first time the strike group is on board, they want to see how we interact with the other ships," Johnston said. "They will perform Group Sail, which is basically getting the strike group together for the first time and sailing them in different formations to see how they interact during turns."
Once GHWB is certified to self train, the command will enter a sustainment period consisting of a set number of drills leading up to deployment.
Johnston explained that the next big step in the deployment cycle will occur early next year, when the strike group conducts its Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX).
"That is training not so much for the ship's crew, but for the strike group as a whole," said Johnston. "They give us a battle problem, and we have to solve it as a strike group."
To complete the work-up cycle for GHWBs combat deployment, the Sailors and vessels will utilize other domestic military assets, along with foreign militaries, to ensure successful operability with those entities during Joint Task Force Exercise.
For more news from USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn77/.