Civilian Leaders See Simulated Anti-Terrorism Operations
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
ROTA, Spain, Jun. 11, 2004 Civilian leaders from throughout the United States watched U.S. Navy fighter jets launch a simulated strike against a suspected terrorist training camp in Tunisia, then looked on as a SEAL team boarded and took control of a vessel posing as a ship transporting components for weapons of mass destruction.
Navy SEALs conduct a maritime interdiction demonstration for
participants in the 2004 Joint Civilian Orientation Conference watching from
the USS Enterprise off the coast of Rota, Spain, June 11. Photo by Tech. Sgt.
Michael Buytas, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The mock scenarios were part of a full-day demonstration of Navy sea and airpower, hosted today by the USS Enterprise for about 50 participants in the 2004 Joint Civilian Orientation Conference.
The business, academic and government leaders flew aboard C-2 carrier onboard delivery aircraft from Naval Air Station Rota to the Enterprise, about 50 miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean, to see and learn about U.S. naval operations.
Lt. Cmdr. Dave Kliemann told the group the nuclear aircraft carrier has a long string of superlatives to its name; it's one of the biggest, fastest, largest, heaviest, oldest and most maneuverable ships in the U.S. Navy, he said.
The Enterprise, known affectionately by its crew as the "Big E," has played a vital role in the war on terror.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Shawn Criswell, an aviation ordnanceman, remembers vividly back to Sept. 11, 2001, when he and the rest of the Enterprise crew had just left the Persian Gulf on a regularly scheduled deployment. The ship made an immediate U-turn back to the Gulf to support Operation Enduring Freedom.
"We were ready to go," said Criswell, who admitted he waited impatiently for the order to send weapons to the flight deck. The carrier launched its first air strikes against terrorist targets in Afghanistan on Oct. 8, 2001, wowing even Criswell and other Navy veterans with its power as they watched the results of their efforts unfold on television. "I was blown away by the capabilities," Criswell said.
Today, participants in the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference also were "blown away" by those capabilities.
After touring the carrier's bridge, intelligence center and combat direction center, they were treated to an airpower demonstration by Carrier Wing 1's E-2 Hawkeyes, S-3 Vikings and EA-6B Prowlers. Highlighting the demonstration, an F- 18 Hornet broke through the sound barrier as it soared past the group, creating a sonic boom.
The aircraft returned to the flight deck, where the group watched tailhooks catch the arresting wires that bring the aircraft to a screeching halt within about 300 feet.
After the airpower demonstration, Carrier Wing 1 launched F-18 and S-3 aircraft as part of a fictional air strike against a weapons cache 1,200 miles away at a terrorist training camp in Tunisia. Cmdr. Tom Holly explained to the group that based on the scenario, F-14s would sweep through the area to take out enemy MiG aircraft, EA-18s would jam enemy radars and F-18s would drop 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition on the targets.
Although fictional, the scenario paralleled closely with the Enterprise's real- life experiences supporting Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Lt. Kevin Sproge, an F-18 pilot who has flown "a couple dozen" combat sorties in both Afghanistan and Iraq, told the civilian visitors he gets a lot of satisfaction in playing a key role in the terror war.
Sproge, who was born in Bronx, N.Y., and remembers visiting the top floor of the World Trade Center, said conducting some of the first air strikes against Taliban and al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan gave him a sense of gratification. "Just being a part of getting some payback felt good," he said. "If they want to attack us, I'm here to make sure they don't do it again."
After the launches, the civilian leaders watched members of SEAL Team 2's Foxtrot Platoon based at Little Creek Amphibious Base, Va., demonstrate another real-life mission the Enterprise carries out: maritime interdiction.
In the scenario, USNS Big Horn, a Navy supply ship, stood in for a civilian vessel carrying components used to manufacture weapons of mass destruction.
The SEALs conducted a "visiting, boarding, search and seizure" mission, "fast- roping" to the vessel from HH-60 special-operations capable Seahawk helicopters. Once aboard, the team members worked their way to the bridge, where they launched an assault and took control of the ship.
Terry Fluke, terminal manager for Citgo Petroleum in Tampa, Fla., said the demonstrations made him feel "like a kid visiting Disney World for the first time."
Looking around the flight deck at other participants in the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, Fluke said he was struck to see "everyone's jaws dropped and the look of awe" on their faces. "It was quite impressive," he said.
"It was awesome," agreed Hank Nordhoff, who served as a Navy officer in the 1960s and is now president, chairman and chief executive officer of Gen-Probe in San Diego. "I told some of the guys that they were about to see the crme de la crme, and that exactly what we saw," he said. "The sea power is amazing, but what's also amazing is to see so many people living in a close community for months and months at a time and making it work."
Adm. Gregory Johnson, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, said the Enterprise visit was meant to demonstrate more than just the strike group's offensive strike and sea denial capabilities. Most importantly, he said, the visit allowed the civilian leaders to meet the young sailors who Johnson said "serve with distinction and dedication."
"It all comes back to our people," he said. "The selflessly dedicated sons and daughters of America enable everything we do. They make it a pleasure and honor to serve in today's Navy."
Walking through the carrier and on its flight deck, the civilian visitors met with many of the ship's crew. Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Cephus, an information systems technician who keeps Enterprise's networks operating, acknowledged that duty aboard the Enterprise and the frequent deployments it entails can be tough on families. But the tradeoff, he said, is making a tangible contribution to the war on terror. "I know I'm doing something positive," he said.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sergio Bautista, who maintains and assembles weapons launched Enterprise aircraft, told members of the group "there's gratification knowing that I'm serving the country."
Criswell said he's confident that the Enterprise's presence and its "awesome" strike power serves as a deterrent to terrorists who might want to do damage to the United States. "We're ready to do what needs to be done," he said.
Patty Komko, executive director of Leadership New Mexico, said the visit to the Enterprise -- as well as visits to other military sites in Germany, Bosnia- Herzegovina and Azerbaijan this week "really reinforced how dedicated the members of our military are, how intelligent (they are), and how much they give up for our country."
"I'm really struck by the dedication and loyalty toward protecting our country and the world," she said.