Three-Carrier Strike Force Exercise to Commence in Western Pacific

The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Nimitz (CVN 68), and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) strike groups will commence a three-carrier strike force exercise in the Western Pacific, Nov 11-14.

USS Nimitz (CVN 68), USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) and USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) carrier strike groups transit in formation during exercise Valiant Shield in 2007. The aerial formation consists of aircraft from the carrier strike groups as well as Air Force aircraft. photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Stephen W. Rowe (RELEASED)

Units assigned to the strike force will conduct coordinated operations in international waters in order to demonstrate the U.S. Navy’s unique capability to operate multiple carrier strike groups as a coordinated strike force effort.

“It is a rare opportunity to train with two aircraft carriers together, and even rarer to be able to train with three,” said U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander, Adm. Scott Swift. “Multiple carrier strike force operations are very complex, and this exercise in the Western Pacific is a strong testament to the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s unique ability and ironclad commitment to the continued security and stability of the region.”

While at sea, the strike force plans to conduct air defense drills, sea surveillance, replenishments at sea, defensive air combat training, close-in coordinated maneuvers, and other training.

This is the first time that three carrier strike groups have operated together in the Western Pacific since exercises Valiant Shield 2006 and 2007 off the coast of Guam. Both exercises focused on the ability to rapidly bring together forces from three strike groups in response to any regional situation. Ronald Reagan took part in VS 2006 and Nimitz took part in VS 2007.

More recently, U.S. Navy aircraft carriers have conducted dual carrier strike group operations in the Western Pacific including in the South China Sea, East China Sea and Philippine Sea. These opportunities typically occur when strike groups deployed to the 7th Fleet area of operations from the West Coast of the United States are joined with the forward deployed carrier strike group from Japan.

For more than 70 years, the U.S. Pacific Fleet has been a persistent and stabilizing presence conducting operations throughout the region. The Fleet is just as committed to maintaining those security commitments for the next 70 years.

USS Ronald Reagan, Carrier Air Wing Two to Participate in RIMPAC

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and Carrier Air Wing Two departed from the Southern California operating area June 18 to participate in the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise scheduled June 26 to Aug. 1, in and around the Hawaiian Islands.

USS Ronald Reagan

USS Ronald Reagan

RIMPAC is the world’s largest international maritime exercise and serves as a unique training opportunity for participating countries to foster and sustain the cooperative relationships and interoperability that are critical to ensure security on the world’s oceans.

Inside the Ronald Reagan Room

Reagan and its embarked Carrier Strike Group Nine command staff will work with 46 ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel from 23 nations to exercise a wide range of capabilities and demonstrate the inherent flexibility of maritime forces.

When the NAVY flew me out to the USS Aircraft Carrier USS Ronald Reagan during a previous RIMPAC Exercise

When the NAVY flew me out to the USS Aircraft Carrier USS Ronald Reagan during a previous RIMPAC Exercise

“RIMPAC has a long, rich tradition dating back to 1971, so we’re incredibly excited to be participating in this important international exercise,” said Capt. Christopher Bolt, Reagan’s commanding officer. “Every opportunity we have to strengthen relations with our partner countries and exercise cooperative efforts allows us to improve the way in which we provide safety and security for the world’s sea lanes.”
USS Ronald Reagan Commanders Coin
Reagan last participated in the RIMPAC exercise series in 2010.

Details of RIMPAC activities and imagery are available at http://www.cpf.navy.mil/rimpac/2014.

Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group to Visit Hawaii

In 2010 I got to land on the USS Ronald Reagan Aircraft Carrier and then got catapulted off.  I just heard that the USS Carl Vinson Aircraft Carrier will be visiting Hawaii starting tomorrow:

In this file photo, aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) departs Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam with Sailors’ friends and families aboard for a ‘Tiger Cruise’ in June 2011. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans)

[Pearl Harbor, Hawaii] Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1, including aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), is scheduled to arrive at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam May 15 for a port visit.

CSG 1, led by Rear Adm. T.K. Shannon, also consists of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 1, guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97), guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 embarked aboard Carl Vinson.

The ships of the CSG are currently transiting to their homeport of San Diego following a six-month deployment to the Western Pacific and Middle East areas supporting maritime theater security operations with the U.S. 7th and 5th Fleets.

“The dedication demonstrated by every Sailor up and down the chain of command was the key factor in accomplishing every mission objective for our time in the 5th and 7th Fleets,” said Carl Vinson Commanding Officer Capt. Kent D. Whalen. “With our return to 3rd Fleet, our focus may have changed but our mission-ready mindset continues.”

Wordless Wednesday – A Fly Over

Aircraft assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 and Helicopter AntiSubmarine Squadron 4 fly over the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) during a tiger cruise air show. Tiger cruises allow friends and family of deployed Sailors and Marines to spend time aboard a sea-going vessel to experience the ship's day-to-day operations. Ronald Reagan is returning from a seven-month deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alexander Tidd)

Video Memories of the USS Ronald Reagan Excursion

Last July, I was lucky enough to be part of a group of bloggers, tweeters and other folks who are active in social media who were invited to fly out in to the middle of the Pacific Ocean and land on the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

USS Ronald Reagan

USS Ronald Reagan

While I posted lots of pictures to my website… I kind of forgot about posting many of the videos that I had taken.  Now the USS Ronald Reagan is over off the coast of Japan helping with the disaster relief efforts from the tsunami that recently took place so I figured this would be a good time to show some of the movies that I took aboard the USS Ronald Reagan.

In the following clip – USS Ronald Reagan’s Commanding Officer – Kenneth J. Norton, (CAPT, USN)  shares with us a little history of the ship.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0172T5gOSbo]

In this next clip you will see how close we actually got to the jets as they were getting catapulted off the deck.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ieny__AeBrU]

I wasn’t afraid of the jets flying off the deck… but watching the jets land on the deck and being so close to it was quite nerve racking!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdrMOFJIorM]

I love these little chem-trails or vapor trails they leave on the deck as they blast off!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30dRHsvIxYA]

Zagorski Takes Tantalus… Coming to the Big Island in a Few Weeks

This past weekend was the 2011 Tantalus Time Trials for bike riders around the state to participate in a ride around Tantalus Road on the island of Oahu.

The Tantalus Time Trial is oldest running bicycle race in Hawaii. Racers will climb approximately 1,400 feet as they ascend the windy 4.5 mile route to the top.

This years winner was two time U.S. National Champion winner Mike Zagorski with a time of 19 minutes and 51 seconds.

Mike Zagorski Climbs Tantalus (Photo Courtesy http://www.hawaiiracephotos.com/)

Many folks may not know that Hawaii is the home of National Champion Zagorski and he has lived here for nearly 10 years after moving here from the Highlands of Scotland.  The 2011 Tantalus TT was the 5th time he has won the race in 6 attempts at the race.

The first year of the race was 1975 and was won by Charles Galbraith in 21min 29sec. Until 2009, the record time was 18 minutes 39 seconds set by Charles Irwin (supposedly a Navy Seal) in 1991.  Zagorski had broken Irwin’s record a few times with his best time being an 18 minute 30 seconds ride in August 2006, however, this was set as part of a stage race and not the traditional April date for the hillclimb. Austrian cyclist Alexander Eiler beat Zagorski in 2009 with an 18 minutes 32 seconds ride which is still the current record time.

I was lucky enough to meet him on a couple excursions that we did with the Pacific Fleet.

Mike Zagorski (Third from Left) and others onboard the USS Ronald Reagan

In 2010 Zagorski narrowly missed the record with a time of 18 minutes 34 seconds  in torrential rain. This year the weather conditions were looking better for the 65 competitors, with no rain in sight. A lack of rain was met with windy conditions making times slower across the board. Zagorski (BME Racing) came out on top with a winning time of 19 minute 52 seconds  edging out 2nd placed Rick Collins (20:16) and 3rd placed Wing Ho (BME Racing) 20:31. Overall women’s winner was Jenny Lagerquist of Pacific Velo with a time of 22 minutes 44 seconds. The course record stands for another year!

Today went well with me either meeting or beating my time splits most of the way up. Yup, most. I got to the stop sign / right turn at 3:35, to the end of the residential at 5:00, to the water tank in 6:00, mid way point at 9:05, and so on. I got to the flat-ish top section at about 17:00 only to be greeted by wind. The final few minutes of racing were pretty damn slow and I ended up losing time crossing the line in 19:51 – One of the slowest race times I’ve had up there in 5+ years. Still good enough to win, but winning is only half of my goal on Tantalus – I want that record. I guess I’ll have to come back again in 2012, but skinnier, and faster!…

I asked Zagorski when the next race was and he let me know that it’s coming up on the Big Island!

“Next race is the Hawaii State Individual 40km Time Trial on the Big Island, April 23, and the State Team Time Trial (4-man and also 40km) on April 24,” Zagorski stated.

When asked about the Tantalus race itself, Zagorski said “One of the best races and short training rides on O’ahu… Just pure climbing, nice scenery, not a whole lot of cars, and just the occasional rooster, mongoose, or wild pig”

Mike snapped the following picture of himself in which he caught me in the background.

Mike Zagorski and I aboard the USS Ronald Reagan out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean

I wish Mike the best of luck here on the Big Island in a few weeks and hope he enjoys his stay at the Hilton Waikoloa Village!

You can follow Mike on Twitter @MikeZagorski

Happy Birthday Ronald Reagan… Inside the “Ronald Reagan Room”

Last year in July, I was invited along with a group of others to go fly out to the USS Ronald Reagan Aircraft Carrier out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Part of our tour was getting an exclusive look at the “Ronald Reagan Room” on board the  carrier.

We went inside a room that was about 50′ by 50′ and in the center of the room was this plaque of President Reagan’s face embedded into a piece of the Berlin Wall. 

The Berlin Wall was torn down his time in office and this was literally a chunk of the wall that was in the room with re-bar still in it and all.

The room itself wasn’t that big…

… but it was what was in that was so cool.  I was looking at official Presidential Documents!

It was a great time and I went with a great group of folks and it’s something I will never ever forget in my life!

And of course I won’t forget the fact that we missed the landing on the first attempt of landing on the carrier and had to blast off and land again the second time.

The best part for me though… had to be getting catapulted off this buggah!

So Happy Birthday you old Gipper!

My Top Adventures of 2010… Numbers 2 and 1

If you have been following my blog, then you will know that I have been counting down the top adventures that I got to go on this year.

So today I post #2 adventure which was having the opportunity to go up in a C-17 Military transport plane.

Me in front of the C-17 I would later fly in

Simulating an aerial drop over the Big Island…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Brc-OgHxNYg]

Getting escorted by F-16’s

and then sitting in the cockpit of the plane when we landed!

The very next day… brought me to my #1 Adventure that I got to do this year and that was Landing on the aircraft Carrier USS Ronald Reagan and Catapulting off!

The USS Ronald Reagan

This was definitely the highlight of the year as they literally caught us by a wire as we landed on the carrier… but only after we missed catching the wire the first time!

We missed the wire on our first approach and had to gun it off the end and try it again where we were successful on the second attempt.

It was an awesome experience as when we were leaving… they actually catapulted us off in a COD Jet.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpeeNl8pD0g]

Out of all the folks that got to go… I was the only one brave enough to ask the Commander of the USS Ronald Reagan for a Commanders Coin and he gave me one!

This was a great trip and I’m sure it’s a once in a lifetime that an ordinary joe blow like me… gets invited on these buggahs… So a big Mahalo to the Captain Kenneth Norton and the US Pacific Fleet for having me aboard!

My Pearl Harbor Memories

Well today is considered “Pearl Harbor Day” and we all know what happened that fateful day.

This has been an interesting year for me as I got to join a few others on some exercises that the military did and most of them were at or around Pearl Harbor.

My way of commemorating today will be to put this little post together of the experiences I got to have!  So here are my Pearl Harbor memories from this past year.

It all began over a year ago when I had the opportunity to meet one of the most powerful men I have ever met, The Commander of the Pacific Command, Admiral Willard.

I was too nervous to do anything other then shake his hand and I certainly didn’t want to ask any questions that might have gotten me in trouble!

I guess this event went over well enough so they then invited me go Out to Sea on the Navy Destroyer USS Chung-Hoon.

This was pretty spectacular as I didn’t know a submarine would show up out of nowhere!

Since I got a bit sea-sick on the USS Chung-Hoon, I guess it was the Navy’s way of making sure I didn’t get sick on another trip by bringing me aboard the USS Mercy for a tour of the worlds largest trauma centers… and it floats!

Despite what you may think… we were pretty free to take pictures of most the things we saw on these events!

After the tour of the USS Mercy a couple months later, I got the opportunity to go up in a C-17 and fly from Oahu to the Big Island for a simulated mission.

During the flight they opened the back and did some simulated air drops.  Then the next thing you know they had some F-17’s that were simulating an attack on the plane!

It was cool because when they landed in Kona… they actually let me sit in the cockpit!

It felt weird flying to Kona and then landing… and then taking off again… but that’s just what we did and we returned to Oahu.

The following day I did something that just totally blew my mind… and that was getting the chance to Land on the Aircraft Carrier USS Ronald Reagan and getting Catapulted off out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!.

This was pretty cool as I actually got to sit in the Commander’s Chair!

When we first landed we missed the chain that was suppose to catch our plane so we gunned it off the end and made another pass around and then landed safely.  That wasn’t near as exciting as getting catapulted off though!

And while most of the things listed above happened on or near Pearl Harbor… the most recent thing I was able to attend courtesy of the Navy was the practice day at the Kaneohe Air Show where we got to get up close and personal w/ Blue Angels!

So while many people may have bad memories about Pearl Harbor… I certainly can say that all my memories of the place have been pretty spectacular!

Landing on the Aircraft Carrier USS Ronald Reagan and Catapulting Off!

As I’ve mentioned previously, I had quite an exciting weekend and the fun didn’t end with the C-17 ride on Friday as part of the 2010 Pacific Rim Exercises.

On Saturday, the US NAVY gave me the the opportunity to land on the Aircraft Carrier USS Ronald Reagan and to get catapulted off of the buggah!

I knew for a few weeks now that I would be having a pretty wild weekend this weekend but I didn’t expect it to be this crazy.  I didn’t even find out until a few weeks ago that I was selected to go on the ship as a “Distinguished Visitor”.

The group of social media folks that were selected all gathered at the Pearl Harbor Pass and ID office at 9:00 on Saturday for what would turn out to be an all day “mission”.

We then boarded vans which took us out to the Hickam Combat Squadron Station.

Once we got there, they explained about the C-2A Greyhound Plane (Carrier On-Board Delivery – C.O.D) that would be taking us out to the USS Ronald Reagan as a group of 24 folks.

We had to wear protective cranial caps and goggles…

As well as salt water activated life jackets in case the plane went down in the water.

I ended up looking like this

We all boarded the plane and then took off for the Aircraft Carrier which was located about 150 – 200 miles North of Oahu.

About an hour into the ride, my ears started to pop so I knew that we were starting to descend.

I knew to brace myself for the landing as we were going to be hooked by the tail of the plane and then stopped immediately and it was quite an exciting landing as on the first pass by… we missed the dang cord that was suppose to hook us!

So the pilot gunned it and we flew off the end of the Aircraft Carrier and made a second pass where the pilot successfully landed the plane and caught the wire that was suppose to catch us the first time.  I think I jinxed us as I actually asked what the percentage of chance that could possibly happen and they said very little like maybe 5% of the times a plane misses.  Well of course I was on the plane that missed!

When they finally opened the doors of the plane we were in… this is what I had a chance to see right off the bat.

I took this video of the other folks on the flight getting off the “COD”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9kQbYSTTfM&hl=en_US&fs=1]

As they quickly rushed us off the flight deck… I took this one last picture of the control tower and bridges.

They brought us into the ship and we got out of our cranials and life jackets and then quickly we were brought to the Commanders “Port Quarters” where we were introduced the ships Commanding Officer – Kenneth J. Norton, CAPT, USN (Far Right).

Commanding Officer Norton gives a brief run down of things

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0172T5gOSbo&hl=en_US&fs=1]

So after talking with the Commander for a while, it was time for a tour of the ship… or so I thought, but, what really happened is they brought us into one of the cafeterias on the ships and we had a great lunch.

It was then time to tour the ship…  We started by checking out the room and museum that was devoted to former President Ronald Reagan.  This plaque of Ronald Reagan is actually attached to a piece of the former Berlin Wall.

After spending some time in that room learning more about who the ship was named after we moved on to the “hangar” of the ship where I took the following pictures.

You can see more Hangar shots in the picture gallery below.

So after checking out the hangar, we then checked out the room where they do a lot of stuff such as re-enlisting folks and honoring them with honors.  I figured I’d honor myself.

After that, we headed straight to the Combat Direction Center and after our tour guide had made sure that the place was “Sanitized from media folks” we were offered a first hand look at the place and were even allowed to take pictures of the place.

After that, we checked out the Flight Operations room.

We then put on cranials, goggles and life jackets again as we headed out on to the flight deck to watch some catapult lift offs and then some “recovery” of planes.

We headed out on to the flight deck and this is what I saw:

And here is a short video of one of the jets getting catapulted off the ship.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpeeNl8pD0g&hl=en_US&fs=1]

After they launched about a dozen or so planes off the carrier, it was time for a “recovery” stage, where the planes would land on the plane and then get caught by these cords that were across the carrier.

And here is a short clip of a jet landing and getting hooked as you can see… I’m REALLY CLOSE TO WHERE THESE BUGGAHS ARE LANDING!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdrMOFJIorM&hl=en_US&fs=1]

After being on deck for about half an hour watching jets take off and land, we moved back inside of the ship and went up to the Flight Control Deck where they explained the coordination of the planes once they were on the deck.

We then went all the way up to the Bridge of the ship where the Commander spends most of his time and he briefed us on a few things.

I decided I would pirate the ship for a few minutes and I asked the Commander if I could sit in his chair and he let me!

The tour of the ship was getting ready to wind down so we went back down to the Commanding Officers “Port” Room where Captain Norton explained to us the importance and significance of the USS Ronald Reagan.

He mentioned that the average age of the folks working aboard was only 22 years of age and that he was very impressed with the folks that have been entering the military during this last generation.

He emphasized that these kids joining the military now a days… have  basically spent their entire lives living in a country that has been at war during the last two decades and that there is a strong sense of patriotism amongst the kids and that he was really honored to be part of a “National Treasure”  the USS Ronald Reagan.

I remembered from the USS Chung Hoon tour that I took, that most Commanders have “Coins” made that they give to dignitaries… So of course when no was looking… I asked the Commander if he had a coin… And HE TOOK OUT THE ONLY ONE THAT HE HAD IN HIS DESK… Folded it up in his hands… then shook my hand… and the next thing I knew… I was the only member of this trip that received a Commanding Officers Coin!

Commanding Officer Norton then presented us all with a certificate recognizing us as Honary Naval Aviators as well as a nice picture of the ship (top picture) as well as a picture of him with us.

We then prepared to get catapulted off of the Aircraft carrier going from 0 to 150 MPH in less then three seconds.  We watched a short video on how to prepare and what to expect during the catapult and then made our way to the plane.  We braced ourselves for the ride and before we new it we were flying off the end of the Aircraft Carrier!

I wasn’t allowed to hold my camera during the catapult as we were instructed to put our arms across our chest… but I’m sure the look on my face must have been hilarious!  Talk about an adrenaline rush!!!