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Stennis completes carrier qualifications

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Raul Barrios, from Los Angeles, guides an F/A-18C Hornet from the “Rough Raiders” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 on to catapult one aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). - Photo by MC3 Walter Wayman
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Raul Barrios, from Los Angeles, guides an F/A-18C Hornet from the “Rough Raiders” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 on to catapult one aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).
— image credit: Photo by MC3 Walter Wayman

Stennis completed its participation in Fleet Replacement Squadron Carrier Qualifications off the coast of Southern California Sept. 21.

The qualifications gave fleet replacement pilots first-time experience landing and taking off from Stennis’ flight deck to prepare them to be naval aviators.

“You can’t really replicate the feeling you have on that first night catch or shoot,” said Fleet Replacement Pilot Lt.j.g. John Reeves of VFA-125. “It’s definitely something you just do and later on realize how awesome of an experience it was.”

The pilots flew during both day and night operations to improve their flight proficiency.

“It got a little bit easier with each shoot,” Reeves said. “But there’s a nervousness each time you get shot off the flight deck that you just have to get used to.”

Before arriving aboard Stennis, the pilots went through hours of virtual flight simulators and training flights.

Reeves said the fleet replacement pilots who qualified will be sent to different squadrons around the fleet in the coming weeks.

The FRSCQ was Stennis’ first time out to sea since pulling in from a six-month deployment in July.

“Our performance during the carrier qualifications was impressive,” said Cmdr. Shelby Stratton, Stennis air department.

Stratton, who was experiencing his first underway with Stennis, said the carrier set the tone for the qualifications, with a number of Stennis sailors trying out new positions on the flight deck.

“I enjoyed learning the job and working with a tremendously talented and motivated team,” Stratton said. “The constant launch and recovery of carrier qualifications kept everyone on their toes.”

“It’s been kind of hectic, but also a lot of fun,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Jordan Maxell, who made the jump from tractor driver to under instruction flight director during FRSCQ. “It’s just a little nerve-racking when you’re expected to move a million-dollar aircraft for the first time. You just have to know it’s in your hands to get the job done.”

The qualifications are part of the Navy’s commitment to maintaining war fighting readiness by training and equipping the fleet with the world’s finest naval aviators, an essential part of America’s maritime strategy.

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