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CNO: 9-month carrier deployments until 2015, at least

Dec. 21, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
CNO Adm. Jon Greenert, left, and MCPON (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens gave an interview from the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman in November.
CNO Adm. Jon Greenert, left, and MCPON (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens gave an interview from the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman in November. (Navy)
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Carrier strike group deployments will continue at or near the nine-month mark throughout the new year, the Navy’s top officer said, meaning some sailors will have to wait until at least 2015 before seeing the eight-month trips officials called “the new norm” last month.

In an interview alongside the Navy’stop enlisted man aboard the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman over the Thanksgiving holiday — the Navy posted it on YouTube on Wednesday — Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert said carrier deployments should be “stabilized in a few years” at about eight months, with submarine crews remaining on six-month deployments and amphibs and other surface ships averaging about seven months at sea.

All of the above could change if global flashpoints heat up.

“As they say, ‘The world gets a vote,’ ” Greenert said.

The CNO and Master Chief Petty Officer (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens gave a 15-minute interview with Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mike DiMestico while on the Truman — itself in the midst of a nine-month deployment — as part of the Navy’s “Conversation with a Shipmate” video series.

Stevens weighed in on the enlisted side of deployment issue, saying the fleet is “engaged fully in tracking op tempo to find out how long are our sailors out there, so we can better understand what we need to do in the future.”

Deployment lengths were one of several issues discussed during the interview:

■Stevens expressed frustration with the reduction in notice sailors are receiving for permanent change-of-station moves — down from a six-month average to about four months in 2013.

“We don’t like it any more than they do,” Stevens said of the change, which he blamed on budget cuts. The Navy is working to move back to the six-month window “in the very near future,” Stevens said, without offering specifics.

■While Greenert outlined changes to rotational deployment, he also stressed nonrotational deployments as ways the Navy would maintain its forward presence. Chief among those forward deployments: four destroyers to Rota, Spain, by 2016 and four littoral combat ships to Singapore in the coming years.

The CNO also mentioned the Navy’s involvement in the move of 1,100 Marines and sailors to Darwin, Australia, which will take place in the spring of 2014.

“We’ll provide the lift for that,” Greenert said.

■Navy-Marine operations came up again near the end of the interview, when Greenert stressed the re-incorporation of Marines into more traditional roles alongside sailors as the war in Afghanistan reaches its end.

“They’re done being ashore as much,” he said. “They’re coming back to sea.”

Along with strengthening some of the amphibious skills that haven’t been stressed during combat operations, Greenert said sailors and Marines will need to adapt to the fleet’s new platforms — including afloat staging bases, mobile landing platforms and even the littoral combat ship — that will power the amphibious fight in coming years.

The use of “smaller, packaged forces” to respond to small-scale threats will be key in coming years, Greenert said, adding that “nobody is more effective” at rapidly fielding and deploying such forces than the Navy and Marine Corps.

■Stevens said the Navy hoped “to not create a lot of uniform chaos or churn” in the coming year, then referenced one major uniform change already in progress and a second in its early stages.

Flame-resistant coveralls, which will replace the blue-camouflage Navy working uniform at sea for most sailors in most situations, will be delivered soon to units readying for deployment, Stevens said. And wear-tests of a lighter variant of the NWU Type I, triggered by complaints from sailors in warmer climates seeking relief from the current uniform, will begin shortly.

“We’ll see what the fleet comes back and tells us” after the wear tests, Stevens said, “because really, they’re going to be the judge of what happens next.”■

— Staff report

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