The USS Nimitz returned Friday morning from its final preparations for deployment.
The huge aircraft carrier crawled through Rich Passage at dawn and tugboats nudged it into its Naval Base Kitsap berth around 8 a.m.
The Nimitz, which departed on Jan. 28, completed a composite training unit exercise off of southern California. The training tests a strike group’s ability to work as a group in real-world scenarios. During sea trials in October, the carrier was joined by squadrons of Air Wing 11, but this was the first time it operated alongside the entire strike group air wing, destroyers and cruisers.
“Considering that the past five weeks have been the first time that the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group has trained together at sea in more than three years, we did extremely well,” strike group commander Rear Adm. Bill Byrne said in a news release.
The Nimitz wrapped up its last deployment in November 2015 and returned to its normal base of Naval Station Everett. It sailed to Bremerton for a 22-month maintenance and modernization period at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Sailors, shipyard workers and contractors overhauled the ship’s engineering spaces and power plants, upgraded the computer systems, remodeled the crew’s living spaces and refurbished the flight deck.
The work was completed in early October. Since then, the ship has been testing new equipment at sea and training crew members, concluding with COMPTUEX. The exercise was broken into two phases. Phase 1 closely followed a schedule of events that served as training for sailors and watchstanders. Phase 2 provided the strike group with a scenario that didn’t follow a schedule and was more realistic.
The Nimitz strike group was the first to use a new training concept that allows for virtual and live environments to be merged, providing more comprehensive and realistic training.
Rear Adm. Ross Myers, commander of Carrier Strike Group 15, and his staff graded the exercise.
“This is the best training scenario I’ve seen in my 30 years of working these types of battle problems,” he said in the release. “That sort of competitiveness, initiative and toughness I saw across the strike group is exactly what the Chief of Naval Operations asks of us.”
The Navy has said the Nimitz will deploy in early summer. It hasn’t announced where it will be going. Deployments usually last seven or eight months.
“We are going to be tested,” Byrne said in the release. “We need to go forward confident that we will be competitive enough and that we will be tough enough to prevail. I…