EVERETT, Wash. (Aug. 20, 2012) - The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) returned to its homeport of Everett, Wash., today following a 70-day underway period in support of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012 and multiple carrier qualification (CQ) exercises.
"Since USS Nimitz departed Everett earlier this summer, we have completed numerous inspections and certifications, immediately leading up to the biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise," said Capt. Jeff Ruth, Nimitz' commanding officer. "I can't overemphasize how proud I am of each and every one of the Sailors aboard. Their professionalism and stellar performance led 22 nations through this demanding exercise."
Since departing Everett in June, the crew of Nimitz has undergone strenuous testing and evaluation. Over the course of 24 general quarters drills, the Afloat Training Group (ATG) monitored the ship's ability to overcome emergency scenarios. Surpassing ATG's expectations, the ship successfully finished its tailored ship's training availability (TSTA) and the final evaluation problem (FEP) as they geared up for their lead role in RIMPAC 2012.
As the flagship for RIMPAC's combined task force, Nimitz and her crew took part in the world's largest international maritime exercise. While participating in RIMPAC, the carrier and her crew celebrated numerous achievements along the way. It started with Capt. Greg Harris, commander, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11, completing his 1,000th carrier arrested landing June 18.
"This wasn't so much an achievement for me as it was a reminder," said Harris. "Those 1,000 traps show the hard work from the guys maintaining the planes, working the catapults and arresting gears. You don't get to 1,000 without the sweat of someone moving those chains in 120 degree weather."
During the Great Green Fleet demonstration, Nimitz became the first ship to receive and test the use of bio-fuel on carrier-based aircraft July 17.
Upon receiving the new bio-fuel, the Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Ray Mabus, and Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, visited the aircraft carrier for the demonstration July 18. The Great Green Fleet demonstration was a step toward the Department of the Navy's goal to reduce consumption of energy, decrease reliance on fossil fuels and significantly increase the use of alternative energy.
While in the Hawaiian area of operations, the ship hosted more than 500 visitors in an effort to promote the mission of the Navy and expand awareness to the public. The visitors embarked the ship while moored in Pearl Harbor and while underway. The exercise culminated in Nimitz hosting RIMPAC's closing reception with about 1,800 service members and international dignitaries in attendance. The reception was held within the hangar bays of the ship, which were transformed by more than 250 personnel over a period of three days.
"I think it was appropriate that Nimitz host this event," said Chief Culinary Specialist Jade Metz. "To bring these different cultures together and by the end of the night see them sharing food and drink was pretty amazing."
Additionally, Nimitz had the distinct honor of having the Navy's first Lt. Cmdr. Regina Pearl Mills Leadership Award presented by her husband Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Mills to Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Saleema N. Massey while in port at Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI) Aug. 9. More than 500 Sailors from the Aviation Boatswain's Mate community assembled on the flight deck for the ceremony. Mills served aboard Nimitz as the Navy's first female aircraft handler prior to being struck and killed by a vehicle when she stopped to assist others in a traffic collision Jan. 23, 2012. The legacy Mills left behind is that of strength, determination and tremendous leadership during her time on board.
Lastly, while providing a platform for fleet replacement squadron qualifications, two pilots, Lt. Sergion Armas and Lt. Cmdr. Dan Boyer, attached to Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129, landed their E/A-18G Growler on the number three arresting gear wire bringing Nimitz to a monumental 300,000 traps, Aug. 15. Nimitz is one of only two active ships to achieve this milestone, the other being the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65). This came just over a month after the same arresting engine passed the 120,000 trap mark.
Despite being separated from friends and family, the voyage has been a rewarding and memorable experience for the Sailors aboard Nimitz. The ship's participation in RIMPAC 2012 impacted many lives and left a lasting impression on those who walked her decks.