USS Dwight D. Eisenhower marks year out of the yards

Aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike) celebrated the one-year mark since returning to operational status as it continues to support Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) in the Persian Gulf (also known as Arabian Gulf), Aug. 28.

After an extended dry-docking planned incremental availability (DPIA) in Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY), Ike’s crew was able, in less than nine months, to ready the ship for its 15th deployment, but it was no easy task.

The crew embarked on an arduous, compressed work-up schedule that tested the dedication of the crew and families as they completed the basic phase in only 15 1/2 weeks, which is nominally 22 weeks. During this time they completed numerous certifications and inspections before they moved onto the toughest challenges.

On Feb. 25, the crew faced the Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) Material Inspections (MI). Because of postponements due to operational requirements and more than 1,400 days at sea, this was Ike’s first INSURV in nearly 10 years. With a warship nearing four decades of faithful service, a certain level of repair is expected, but all hands had to double their efforts and rise to the challenge to pass the three-day, on-board inspection.

“Bringing the ship to life from the yards proved to be a challenging task,” said Lt. Kurt Bogart, Ike’s Maintenance and Material Management (3M) officer. “Sailors and (3M) run the ship. Everything from the toilets, aircraft elevators, lights, ovens and much more is maintained by Sailors utilizing the 3M system.”

Bogart explained when he arrived January 2015 there were over 50,000 items in an inactive equipment status around the ship. The crew put in a great effort to bring all of these items back online and prepare them within specifications in time for an INSURV, just seven months after leaving the shipyard.

“I have never been part of a work-up cycle as intense as we underwent,” Bogart said. “The crew truly shined getting us back to an operational asset that the United States can utilize where and when necessary without worries of equipment limiting casualties. Procedural compliance and dedication got us to where we are today. I am sure that a lesser crew could not have accomplished what we have.”

After several training events to demonstrate Ike’s crew could operate on their own, it was time to train as a team. The ships and air wing of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (Ike CSG) came together and commenced a composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX), March 16. The series of exercises tested the CSG’s ability to perform and effectively respond as an integrated team during simulated scenarios the group may encounter while deployed or during high-end warfare.

“It’s amazing what we’ve been able to accomplish in just a year,”
said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Keyonnia Cook. “It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been fun. All those long days on the flight deck and training have brought all the different divisions, air wing and ships company together as a single team.”

The Ike CSG, made up of the integrated forces of Ike, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3, guided-missile destroyers USS Nitze (DDG 94), USS Mason (DDG 87), USS Stout (DDG 55), and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) that comprise Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 26, and guided-missile cruisers USS San Jacinto (CG 56) and USS Monterey (CG 61) completed all workups necessary to deploy in record time.

In a matter of months, Ike led the way passing crew certifications, three levels of command assessment of readiness and training (CART), a tailored ship’s training availability/final evaluation problem (TSTA/FEP), and finally the most complex COMPTUEX any strike group in the Navy has been asked to accomplish.

In just eight months, the combined efforts of all hands made getting underway for the deployment’s June 1 departure date possible. Optimally, a work-up cycle is longer, but the team pulled together in true Ike fashion to get the job done.

Ike departed Naval Station Norfolk and began its journey across the Atlantic Ocean to its ultimate destination, the Persian Gulf. Along the way, it went through the Strait of Gibraltar, made a port call in Naples, Italy, provided support to OIR from the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, transited the Suez Canal and navigated the Strait of Hormuz.

“We had trained relentlessly through the entire work-up process, running security drills over and over,” said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Agustas Cherry, describing the force protection preparation for potentially hostile waters. “When we passed through the Strait of Hormuz is when the realization of what we were doing and where we were became real. All that practicing was for this moment. The time for training was over; now it’s the real deal.”

Ike then reached its destination in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, where it has the led the way in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) with 587 combat sorties and 322 ordnance expended by the “Ike-Battle Axe” team.

In less than a year, a dormant ship buried under a pile of maintenance jobs was brought to life and returned to its intended position as a capable, warfighting American asset.