Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ronald Reagan Strike Group Completes SUSTAINEX

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The crew of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) completed its sustainment exercise (SUSTAINEX) and returned to Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., Mar. 26.

The Nimitz-class nuclear powered aircraft carrier completed SUSTAINEX along with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14, the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), the guided-missile destroyers USS Howard (DDG 83) and USS Gridley (DDG 101) and the guided-missile frigate USS Thach (FFG 43).

SUSTAINEX is the last coordinated exercise involving the ships of Carrier Strike Group 7 prior to its upcoming deployment later this year.

"It was a great underway for our Sailors," said Capt. Kenneth Norton, Ronald Reagan's commanding officer. "Even though we had been apart for a few months, it didn't take long for the Ronald Reagan-Air Wing 14 team to start humming like a well-oiled machine."

According to Senior Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate Equipment (AW/SW) Robert Everson of the ship's Air Department, Ronald Reagan conducted more than 1,000 launch and recoveries of aircraft, all while preparing hundreds of new Sailors for their first deployment aboard.

"This underway has prepared them a great deal," said Everson. "With the turnover since last deployment, we have a lot of new Sailors. It gives them a little bit of a vision of what they're going to be facing in the months to come."

SUSTAINEX put the ships together for several coordinated evolutions, including maritime security operations (MSO) and testing air defense and anti-submarine warfare proficiencies. The exercise also proved very valuable from a command-and-control standpoint.

"There were some skills we had to fine tune early on, but all units quickly came on step, and we were able to achieve all training objectives," said Capt. William Nault, commodore of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7. "I have full confidence that we are ready to deploy."

For the flagship, one key qualification was achieved. According to Capt. Thomas Lalor, Commander, CVW-14, USS Ronald Reagan and CVW-14 have requalified as blue-water capable, meaning the ship can now sail into deep waters and conduct flight operations.

USS Ronald Reagan is the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 7 and the ninth of ten Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The ship is named for the 40th president; its motto, "Peace through Strength," was a recurring theme during the Reagan presidency.