USS Stennis returns to 5th Fleet, stops in Bahrain for R&R
By JOSHUA KARSTEN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 25, 2019
MANAMA, Bahrain — The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis arrived in Bahrain this week for some rest, relaxation and replenishment after more than a month with the 7th Fleet.
The Stennis first entered in the Gulf in December and since has moved into and out of 5th and 7th Fleets, in keeping of the Pentagon’s Dynamic Force Employment strategy, which is meant to introduce an element of unpredictability in ship movements to confuse possible U.S. adversaries.
The carrier’s time in the South China Sea and the Persian Gulf was dictated by the need to demonstrate presence and to support different missions, said Capt. Patrick Thompson, the carrier’s executive officer.
“There was a need in 7th Fleet for us to be back there and then coming back this way on our way to our new homeport, it makes sense to come in and maintain our ability to keep the waterways open in the Arabian Gulf,” said Thompson, referring to an upcoming homeport shift from Washington to Virginia. “It’s a good time to come and show our presence on our way back through the area.”
When the Stennis first arrived in the Gulf in December, it was shadowed by Iranian vessels, which trailed the ship and even filmed it using a drone. Thompson confirmed the Stennis had been directly involved in Operation Inherent Resolve, supporting ground troops in Syria and Iraq, but provided no further details.
For the crew, Bahrain is a welcome break from the shipboard life. One sailor mentioned taking a long shower with bare feet — a no-no aboard the ship, she said. Another sailor said she wanted to get to a hotel and order food.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Dennis Johnson planned to see the Tree of Life, a 400-year-old tree in the desert with no known water source, he said.
“That’s something I’ve been looking forward to, I just want to explore the city, explore everything,” he told Stars and Stripes while guiding a tour of the ship’s bridge.
Stennis has been underway since October and has made previous port visits to Singapore, Dubai and Thailand. The flattop, commissioned in 1995, is expected to change homeports to Norfolk, Va. for a midlife refueling after this deployment.