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Kennedy Combat Ready After Ammunition Onload

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS040427-11

Release Date: 4/28/2004 5:06:00 AM

By Journalist 3rd Class Rebecca Schall, USS John F. Kennedy Public Affairs

ABOARD USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (NNS) -- USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) completed its final preparation for deployment April 21 during a massive weapons onload with two other Navy vessels.

The carrier and its crew worked alongside USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and USS Seattle (AOE 3), transferring ordnance underway from the nuclear carrier and fast combat support ship to its flight decks.

Seahawk SH-60 helicopters, six in all, performed a delicate dance at sea, as each took turns hovering above Enterprise's flight deck so Sailors could sling ordnance loads to them. For 14 hours, these helicopters moved ordnance from one carrier to the other. On Kennedy's starboard side, rigs were set up with Seattle, and loads were continuously passed to the carrier.

After nearly 12 hours of continuous loading, Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class (AW) Nelson Hernandez of the weapons department took a break to explain this monumental task.

"Hundreds of people were involved in this evolution," he said. "Weapons, security, deck and air [departments] were all here to make everything happen."

Hernandez is the logistics supervisor for weapons department's G-5 division, and is responsible for ordering the ordnance that covered the carrier's flight deck.

"We started in October, when [Naval Air Force, Atlantic Fleet] gave us a mission load allowance, which tells us what we are getting," said Hernandez. "As everything comes down from the flight deck, I track it and log it into our system."

According to Hernandez, Kennedy received 1,425 airlifts, with 246 coming from Enterprise.

Things ran smoothly as Kennedy's hangar bay became a hive of activity. Deck personnel held lines that linked Kennedy to Seattle, and weapons personnel stood by with forklifts waiting for load after load to come down the aircraft elevator. Through the inherently dangerous evolution, Gunner's Mate 1st Class (SW/AW) Darrell Williams watched with hawk eyes, ensuring everything not only ran efficiently, but also safely.

"I've been here for about 12 hours now, but I will stay for as long as it takes to make sure no one gets hurt," said Williams, of weapons department's G-2 division.

"Mostly, my job is to make sure nothing is moving too fast or too slow, that no personnel are standing in the way of forklifts or elevators, and to ensure all ordnance is handled appropriately," he said.

As the hours crept by, Sailors continued to hustle as though the day had just begun. The entire ammunition move was planned to take about 60 hours of non-stop labor with day- and night-check personnel working to move the entire load from the hangar bay to the magazines. However, the airlifts finished nine hours ahead of schedule, with the crew moving nearly 2,000 pallets. To most people this might have seemed a dreary, exhausting task, but Torpedoman's Mate 3rd Class Michael Sycle said most of his division kept a positive outlook.

"Yeah, I'm pretty tired, but I'll keep going until it gets done," he said. "I'm actually having fun. I mean, how many times do you get to see two carriers alongside each other and two hangar bays full of ordnance?"

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