Fast Cruise: What is it?

On Oct. 31, Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, Stennis is scheduled to kick off fast cruise

Over the next five days, USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) will be manned and ready as nearly 3,000 Sailors operate the ship 24-hours a day as though it is cruising through the Pacific, except for one, big detail: it will not leave the pier.

On Oct. 31, Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, Stennis is scheduled to kick off fast cruise, a five-day training evolution that will bring the ship to life after a 16-month Docking Planned Incremental Availability (DPIA) maintenance period.

“Fast cruise is a simulated underway period that prepares the crew for life at sea,” said Senior Chief Quartermaster Henry Nicol, from Hemet, Calif. “We’ve been training for months while the ship has been in the yards. This is the last training effort before we apply what we’ve learned when we begin sea trials.”

Fast cruise provides the opportunity to measure the ship’s preparedness. It is designed to get the crew into an operational mindset, flipping a switch for those who have experienced life at sea before, and sending a shock to the system for those who have not, according to Nicol.

Each department will accomplish this task in their own way, but all training will simulate at-sea conditions as closely as possible.

Sailors in deck and navigation departments will practice getting underway and pulling into port in both day and night conditions, loss of steering drills and setting anchor. Each of these evolutions will acclimate Sailors to the around-the-clock watches required while underway.

“We will be treating each practice evolution like it’s the real thing,” said Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Alex Armour, from Centralia, Mo. “Not long after we’re done with fast cruise, the training we conduct will be put to use at sea.”

On the flight deck, the crew will receive a refresher on aircraft chocking and handling operations, and run crash and salvage drills using a decommissioned F/A-18 Super Hornet known as the Dud.

“The Dud enables us to conduct aircraft firefighting operations on a real plane,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Justin Hoak, from Sacramento, Calif. “We will demonstrate our ability to contain a fire, set a rescue path for the pilot, extinguish and overhaul casualties and determine the safest way to clear the plane from the flight deck.”

General quarters, man overboard, and abandon ship drills will be all-hands evolutions. The crew will demonstrate their ability to combat casualties such as fire, flooding and collisions, while ensuring safety and mission readiness.

“Our focus will be on damage control and watch standing,” said Lt. Cmdr. Shane Beavers, from Clarksville, Tenn. “The goal is to demonstrate to the commanding officer that his crew can safely sail the ship.”

While the focus of fast cruise is on training, the evolution also creates a change in mindset. Since the ship will simulate at sea conditions, the crew will not freely walk on and off the ship or head home at night to sleep in their beds.

If crew members do need to depart the ship, they will request a “seat” on a simulated C-2 greyhound aircraft conducting Carrier On-board Delivery (COD) operations. The simulated flights will occur only a few times a day, further enhancing the at sea mentality.

Stennis is currently completing a DPIA maintenance period at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility. The ship will get underway soon for sea trials, which constitutes the final determination of a ship’s ability to re-join the fleet as a fully operational unit.

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Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Patrick Enright