USS JOHN C. STENNIS, At Sea (NNS) -- Two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers began cross-decking Sailors March 17 to understand how a foreign carrier operates while conducting combat mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).
USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and the French ship FNS Charles de Gaulle (R 91) have been operating together in the North Arabian Sea since March 16. Stennis arrived Feb. 19 and began supporting OEF Feb. 21, while Charles de Gaulle arrived March 14 and began supporting OEF March 16.
Up to six Sailors from each ship have been cross-decked each day to see what the daily routine is like on the other ship.
Stennis' Training Officer Lt. Cmdr. Andrea Cameron is in charge of coordinating with Stennis' liaison officer aboard Charles de Gaulle to assign each visitor a running mate or sponsor. Cameron said there are several reasons why the ship is taking advantage of this opportunity.
"One is to learn how the French Navy works in general, which gives Sailors a variety of experience," said Cameron. "The other is to learn how another navy might do each of their jobs differently. It's a learning experience and professional development."
Stennis and Charles de Gaulle both exchanged liaison officers to coordinate supporting OEF, arrange bilateral exercises and facilitate the daily exchange of visiting Sailors.
"Cross-decking is a great opportunity for both of us," added Cameron. "If we have the opportunity, we take it."
Despite having a language barrier, the sponsors had a good time with their counterparts.
"I thought it was awesome, especially hearing her stories about how different life is on her ship," said Aviation Maintenance Administrationsman 3rd Class Courtney Adair of aircraft intermediate maintenance department. Adair hosted French Quarter Master 2nd Class Alexandra Villian, March 22.
Villian said she wanted to visit Stennis because she was very curious about life on an American ship. She has visited Norfolk before, but didn't get to visit any of the American aircraft carriers, and since then, she's wondered how different they were.
"Showing her around gave me a different perspective of this ship, because I got to see her reactions to the ship," Adair said. "I haven't been able to see the ship with new eyes in a long time."
Adair, despite not knowing any French, said Villian knew English well enough for them to communicate throughout the visit.
"Communicating was harder than I thought it would be at first," Adair said. "By the end of the day, though, we were communicating easily. We exchanged email addresses and gifts, and I really feel like I made a friend."
French Lt. David Gidon, Charles de Gaulle's liaison officer aboard Stennis spoke to Villian about her visit and said she learned a lot aboard the ship.
"We work together for the same mission, so we should know how each other works," Gidon said. "This reinforces the link between our two countries."
Stennis and Charles de Gaulle plan to continue cross-decking into April.
For more news from USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) visit their Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn74/.