Nimitz helps S. Korea get sea legs with eye on 2012
Stars and Stripes March 5, 2008
ABOARD THE USS NIMITZ — Some of the war games taking place off South Korea’s eastern coast this week focus on what will happen four years from now.
That’s when South Korea is scheduled to take over wartime control of military forces in its country, including approximately 25,000 U.S. Forces Korea troops that still will be stationed there. And putting South Korea in charge is one thing USS Nimitz sailors are thinking about as part of this month’s Key Resolve/Foal Eagle training exercises.
“That is the piece that we’re working on these days,” said Rear Adm. John Terence Blake, commander of Carrier Strike Group 11, said Monday to a group of predominantly South Korean reporters touring the ship.
The stop off the coast is part of a routine deployment for the Nimitz, which left San Diego last month and docked in Busan last week.
Blake said the exercise is focusing on how the two countries’ navies work together. He said South Korea has a “first-rate” navy on par with that of the United States.
“They operate as a single entity out here,” Blake said. “The idea in the exercise is to practice integration. It’s just something you can’t do right away. You have to practice.”
The Nimitz is filling the role of USS Kitty Hawk while that carrier undergoes scheduled maintenance at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Approximately 5,000 sailors and 61 aircraft are stationed on the Nimitz, though it can carry 90 aircraft.
Carrier aircraft are flying an average of 90 sorties a day, Nimitz spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Kim Marks said.
About 6,000 U.S. and South Korean sailors are involved in the Nimitz’s leg of the exercise.
Lt. Jed Johnson, a pilot with the VFA-14 Tophatters, an F/A-18E Super Hornet squadron, said pilots weren’t training against a specific enemy during this exercise, but they will be flying some air-to-ground ranges they’ve never been to.
Tophatter pilot Lt. Mike Stock said life gets busier on the aircraft carrier during an exercise.
“It’s definitely faster-paced,” he said. “The days feel longer.”
This is the first time the Nimitz has participated in USFK’s spring exercise. USS Ronald Reagan participated in last year’s exercise.