Soldiers Aboard Stennis Play Different Role
February 28, 2007
USS JOHN C. STENNIS, At sea - When USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) arrived in San Diego, Jan. 19, they embarked Carrier Air Wing 9 (CVW-9) and headed west to begin their mission in U.S. 5th Fleet's area of operation.
What many Sailors aboard Stennis didn't know when they left San Diego was that two service members not usually associated with ships also deployed that day.
Army Maj. Dave Lander and Sgt. 1st Class John Reardon work in Stennis' carrier intelligence center (CVIC) and act as liaisons between the pilots of CVW-9 and the Soldiers on the ground in theater to coordinate operations.
In Lander's words, this means converting Army talk into Navy talk for the pilots and then back into Army talk for the ground forces.
While the Army doesn't usually deploy on ships, it is necessary in this case.
"We definitely support both OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom] and OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom] operations," said Lander. "We've got the same mission. We bring the ground forces together with the Navy air power in the same place to defeat the enemy."
The Soldiers admit there are many differences between life on the ship and on the ground.
"The amenities on board the ship are far better than any forward operating base or anything you would find on the ground," said Reardon.
He added that in his time aboard Stennis, he has noticed a few traits the Sailors and Soldiers share.
"There is not one [Sailor] that is more important than the other," said Reardon. "Every single one of them is a member of the team, and we need them all, from plumbers to pilots. They're part of something that is bigger than themselves, and they realize that. They realize they're here to support the guys on the ground. They are very professional, and they seem to be excited about it. They're part of history."
There is a mutual respect between the Army members aboard Stennis and the Navy personnel who work with them.
"This is my fifth cruise in this theater, and I've never seen the coordination at the level we have here," said Cmdr. Robert Jones, operations officer for CVW-9. "We know more, walking out the door to our airplane, about what's going on than we ever have before, and it's directly because of these two gentlemen here. Their mere presence on the boat puts kind of a personal face on the mission we're going out to do. They have smoothed the process and made us more effective as an organization just by being here."