USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) returned to Naval Station Norfolk Feb. 10 after completing a month of crucial pre-deployment qualifications and certifications at sea.
During the past month, Enterprise Carrier Strike Group Sailors and Marines participated in three major workup exercises: a composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX), a Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) and exercise Bold Alligator 2012 - the largest naval amphibious exercise conducted in more than a decade.
The exercises mark the final steps in the 50-year-old carrier's preparation for its 22nd and final scheduled deployment. The culmination of months of training since Enterprise concluded its last deployment in July 2011, the exercises presented various scenarios and situations the Enterprise crew may face while deployed.
"These exercises are important because they allow us to evaluate our ability to accomplish the very missions we will be called upon to complete during deployment," said Rear Adm. Walter E. Carter, commander, Enterprise Carrier Strike Group. "Over the past month we have trained as a strike group and have shown that we are more than capable, as a team, to succeed across the full spectrum of warfare capabilities."
The complex scenarios and missions required hard work and dedication at all levels, from the strike group's most senior leadership to the youngest Sailors on the deckplates, experiencing their first underway period. The exercises are designed to involve every warfare area and ensure each Sailor and Marine knows their role to the fullest.
"The Big 'E' crew did an outstanding job this underway," said Master Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate Eric J. Young, Enterprise's acting command master chief. "Our Sailors and Marines were really put to the test, and they answered those challenges without hesitation. I am very proud of their performance and look forward to deploying with such a motivated team."
COMPTUEX, which occupied the first three weeks of the underway, was the first critical test for the strike group to operate together as a cohesive team. Evaluators from Commander, Strike Force Training, Atlantic grade the strike group's overall combat readiness by simulating the occupation of an area with high tensions existing between fictional countries in scenarios loosely based on real world geo-political conditions.
"It's important to practice operating under these conditions so we're ready when the time comes to do it all for real, whether it's against pirates or other enemies," said Cmdr. James Midkiff, operations officer for Enterprise Carrier Strike Group.
During the scenario-based training, strike group ships encountered threats including small boat attacks, mines, strait transits through hostile waters, aircraft, surface and submarine threats, as well as internal damage control and security threat drills. After accomplishing its tasks, evaluators then certified the strike group for open ocean operations.
"I'm extremely proud of how all the Sailors and Marines of the Enterprise, Carrier Air Wing 1, and DESRON 2 team performed during the exercise," said Carter. "The crews' performance during these exercises inspires in me a great sense of confidence that the Enterprise's final deployment will be both memorable and successful."
The last week of the month-long underway included both the JTFEX and Bold Alligator 2012 exercises. More than 14,000 personnel from the U.S., France, Great Britain, Canada and other countries joined together in a massive joint exercise involving at least 25 ships.
The exercises involved scenarios that required the rapid development of defense strategies to defeat a fictional enemy in an ever-evolving combat climate. The exercises concluded with the launch of a massive amphibious raid from several ships to bring the fictional enemy to their ultimate demise.
"We flew 107 sorties [in one day] from Enterprise to support the amphibious landing, which is an amazing feat for our air wing, flight deck crew and maintenance crews that keep things running the way they should," said Midkiff. "It was a great example of our surge capacity and highlighted the key role that a Carrier Strike Group plays in such crucial operations. It's remarkable what we've accomplished as a strike group in such a short period of time - and I have no doubt that we're ready to deploy."
In the midst of all the combat training scenarios, Enterprise also played a secondary role. During the last month, Sailors and Marines aboard Enterprise demonstrated the capabilities of the Navy's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and its crew to more than 200 distinguished visitors, including the secretary of defense, chief of naval operations, master chief petty officer of the Navy, chairman and vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and other representatives from Congress, Department of Defense, and Navy leadership.
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