Atlantic Ocean - Fusing the team of nine aviation squadrons, five destroyers, a cruiser and an aircraft carrier that compose Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12 into a synchronized, deployment-ready unit requires planning, group exercises and communication between the vessels and warfare commanders that make up the strike group.
This process, which facilitates the transition of commands and ships from performing as individual entities to performing as a cohesive group working toward the same goals, is called integration.
“I believe that we are a team of teams,” said Rear Adm. John Wade, commander, Carrier Strike Group 12. “All of us have to work together to harmonize to ensure that we are ready. We have to be agile, we have to be flexible, and we need to be physically and mentally fit. These are all things that we can control ourselves.”
All of the ships and aircraft in the strike group are multi-mission, bringing unique capabilities to the table. Part of making any effective team is harnessing the best performance from all participants.
“Our challenge is to integrate all of our various tasks and capabilities to get the maximum potential out of the strike group,” said Cmdr. Stephen Aldridge, commanding officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87). “This really comes into play when it comes to integrating and networking all of our command and control, communication, computer, combat and information (C5I) systems, along with various sensors, to provide the commodore and the strike group commander with the best picture possible of the battle space around the strike group.”
But while there are challenges to getting different commands working together, all the way down to the unit level, the benefits are immeasurable.
“The integration we receive from our helicopter detachment is a key piece and a force enabler to what Mason can do by herself,” said Aldridge.
The commanders in charge of air, air defense, surface, subsurface and information warfare areas convened last month at a warfare commander conference to plan the strike group integration process.
“The integration process actually began in a classroom,” said Cmdr. Shaun Bellmare, CSG 12’s air operations officer. “We were building relationships and understanding each other’s capabilities and nuances…right now is pre-season football. Back then, we were lifting weights and stretching.”
Since the adjournment of the Warfare Commander Conference, various ships, the air wing and air detachments from CSG 12 have been at sea conducting exercises to facilitate the integration process.
CSG 12 has completed several integration milestones during this at-sea period. The strike group’s flagship, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) successfully fueled Mason, operating its fuel station Aug. 6 for the first time in seven years. The strike group ships conducted protection maneuvers and group sails together. Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 squadrons and Abraham Lincoln conducted cyclic flight operations, continuously launching and recovering aircraft with brief pauses only to allow for maintenance and fuel or ordnance exchanges.
Orchestrating these evolutions requires harmony and understanding between the various commands in the strike group, so CSG 12 has been working hard to properly integrate its ships and aircraft for deployment.
“Proper communication is the foundation of a successful strike group,” said Bellmare. “After conducting operations, we debrief, cross-pollinating each other with lessons learned and things to note for the future, further understanding how our respective actions affect the entire warfare command spectrum.”
Lt. Barbara Ebnet, an operations and planning officer assigned to Destroyer Squadron 2 added, “We have definitely learned how we need to communicate with each other, and we apply lessons learned so we don’t have the same miscommunications twice.”
Most recently, Carrier Strike Group 12’s successful completion of Tailored Ship’s Training Assessment and Final Evaluation Problem (TSTA/FEP) demonstrated that integration is on track.
“We are on the right track, but in order to be the best, we’re going to have to work hard and train hard,” said Wade.