"Our job is to be ready": USS Carl Vinson en route to Western Pacific
USS Carl Vinson is the flagship for Carrier Strike Group 1. Island News spent 24-hours aboard the aircraft carrier to get a firsthand look at the ship's operations.
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR HICKAM - The Carl Vinson Strike Group is en route for a regularly-scheduled deployment to the Western Pacific. Aboard the strike group's ships are more than 6,000 sailors trained and ready to execute their maritime missions. Island News reporter Melody Gonzales spent 24-hours aboard the aircraft carrier to get a firsthand look at the ship's operations.
"Our job is to be ready for whatever our leadership tells us to do. So, say there is call for humanitarian assistance, we have to be ready to do that at a moment's notice and we have to be well because people's lives are at stake. We also have to do the same thing with upholding international laws, and if necessary, if we have to conduct combat operations. We have to be very, very efficient," Carrier Strike Group 1 Commander Rear Adm. John Fuller said.
The strike group is currently at sea deployed in an undisclosed location. The USS Carl Vinson is the flagship for Carrier Strike Group 1. The air wing aircraft embarked on the USS Carl Vinson can be used to support land battles and carry out retaliatory strikes. Crews on board maintain readiness and presence as they continue to train for whatever their next call may be.
"Without our ability to regularly fly around the aircraft carrier.. and the open water environment we wouldn't be able to properly respond to world events," EA-18G Growler pilot Lt. Spencer Johnson said. "We train just about everyday that we can."
Pilot Lt. Johnson has been flying for to the Navy for nearly five years and says landing on a aircraft carrier is considered one of the the most challenging tasks that Navy air can do in an aircraft. He adds that a typical pilot makes well over a hundred small corrections moments before touching down on the runway.
"The runway is approximately about 750 feet and it's about 75 feet wide, but the touchdown point which the pilot is aiming for is only about the size of a large tennis court," he said.
Traveling zero to almost 200 mph in less than two seconds, Lt. Johnson, who also serves as landing signal officer, says three or four thick steel cables strung across the deck and a resting hook on the aircraft helps the pilot come to a complete stop.
And the training doesn't stop once the sun sets.
"Landing on the ship at night is never really something that becomes routine.. It's always exciting and sometimes a little scary," Lt. Johnson added. "It's a whole other ball game."
A carefully orchestrated ball game that wouldn't be possible without the teamwork of the strike group's crew.
"Our goal is to make sure that we get the fuel to the aircraft and in a timely manner. We have the blue shirts they chalk and chain the aircraft. We got the yellow shirts make sure they direct the aircraft.. they've got to make sure the aircraft is there. We got the green shirts who makes sure the catapult and steam are there---and we've got -- the red shirts they're out there they are putting ammo on the aircraft. So everybody has a role it's not just one person," Aviation boatswain fueling specialist, CPO Daniel To'oto'o said
On USS Carl Vinson it's all about readiness. Whether it's combat, humanitarian missions, or disaster relief-- even when Hawaii has a false alarm-- the crew is prepared to act.
"It's something that we have to think about there.. I feel horrible for the gentleman who pressed the wrong button, but one thing we are learning about here in the Navy is you learn from your mistakes and you learn how to not make those same mistakes again," Rear Adm. Fuller said.
And while some missions might be far from land, when it comes to protecting America out of sight never means out of mind for the Navy's premier strike group out at sea.
"We are doing our best to make sure that we keep America safe.. Our deployment is part of that stability that we are offering to the theater to make sure that our presence.. our helping to reinforce rules, laws and norms and our presence to keep our prosperity and keep free flow of trade and services is as it's always been," Rear Adm. Fuller added.