BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) returned to its homeport of Bremerton, Wash., after a successful three-week underway, Sept. 22.
During the underway, the longest since completing a Planned Incremental Availability (PIA) at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard five days ahead of schedule, the crew accomplished important milestones in their return to operations by conducting training, testing systems and equipment, and completing a critical certification.
"The crew performed above all expectations," said Capt. Greg Huffman, commanding officer of John C. Stennis. "From our engineers keeping our systems running to the vital flight deck certification demonstrating our readiness to carry out the core mission of an aircraft carrier, I saw a professional crew executing their mission. The crew's performance was extraordinary, particularly after a long period where we focused their expertise on maintenance."
Representatives from Commander, Naval Air Forces, Pacific observed flight operations to evaluate how well the ship was able to launch, recover and taxi aircraft to complete flight deck certification. Once the deck was certified, naval aviators from Carrier Air Wing Nine and Strike Fighter Squadron 122 practiced launching and recovering on a moving flight deck, during both the day and at night, for carrier qualifications.
"This underway was an important step towards becoming operational following the maintenance period and doing what we do best, launching and recovering warplanes to fight the fight," Huffman explained.
Sailors also carried out damage control training with general quarters drills, conducted replenishments-at-sea, tested ship defense equipment and took time to honor deceased Sailors during a burial-at-sea.
For many Sailors, this was their first significant period at sea.
"I've been in for almost eight years and this is my first sea command," said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Cody Crane, from Cave Creek, Ariz. "I got here just after the Hawaii underway and everything was torn down and covered up. Now that we're in the open ocean it feels like we are really doing our job. All of the things we have been training for we are finally putting to use."
Twenty John C. Stennis Sailors will never forget the day they were promoted to chief petty officer during a ceremony in the ship's hangar bay while underway in the Pacific Ocean, Sept. 15.
"[During the ceremony] we thought about our families," said Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Eric Atkinson, from Pittsburgh. "I would have loved to have my wife pin me and have my two daughters put on my anchors but I wouldn't change it for the world."
Huffman expressed his thanks for the crew's hard work during the underway.
"Our focus will be on maintaining the momentum we've built up this underway," said Huffman. "We're looking ahead toward the rest of our work up cycle, getting our ship ready to take our turn back out in the fight and keeping that operational mindset."