Strait of Gibraltar - The sun shines on Sailors as they gaze at a biblical landmark. Phones and cameras are out to snap photos and selfies to show off to family. What seems like a lovely day aboard USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75) is really a maneuver that takes careful preparation and constant focus.
During the 24 hours prior, the ship's quartermasters - the Navy's navigators - are working on the transit checkoff list, preparing and verifying charts, and calibrating all equipment. They check manned and ready reports, do rudder swing checks, and conduct the transit brief. This evolution is an all-hands effort for navigation department, both before and during.
"The busiest it gets in our job is when we're doing these transits, sea and anchor detail, and [replenishments at sea]," said Quartermaster 2nd Class Rebecca Luce.
"During the transit, we're all on station," said Luce. "We have three different bearing stations outside for bearing takers. They relay it over the sound-powered phones to the chart plotter and the bearing book recorder."
These bearing takers fix the ship's position every three minutes based off the visual landmarks the ship passes. Navigation personnel also double as extra lookouts, added Luce. They keep their heads on a swivel and keep an extra eye out for security concerns, a job primarily done by the ship's security department.
"Once we receive notification that we'll be doing a strait transit, we start preparing, but we're ready at all times," said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Kirk Tardif. "We always have a team that's ready to go at a moment's notice. We're always ready for any obstacle that might come up."
Gear is checked and rechecked. Watchbills are created. Personnel are briefed. Qualifications are verified. However, the real action happens during the transit.
Security personnel are stationed at various spots on the weather decks alongside 50-caliber mounts manned by weapons department.
They assess various vessels and aircraft and communicate to the anti-terrorism tactical watch officer (ATTWO) on the bridge.
"Our main concern is the waterways, what's in our path, and what's getting closer," said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Katie Maguire. "The ATTWO is like the 'eyes in the sky' for the [commanding officer]. So he has a bigger picture while we're tracking everything down here. If we have any type of contact, we're going to track it the whole time it's within our range."
The communication is constant between these lookouts and the ATTWO, painting a picture of the ship's security situation. If a craft is spotted on the port side, it will be tracked by these lookouts as long as it's within sight.
"It's a lot of moving parts at once," said Maguire. "We have to make sure that we are assessing what is just a common vessel and what could potentially be a threat. There's a lot of communication that is happening all at once, and the ATTWO has a very busy job up there."
On the bridge, they're also taking calls from embarked aircraft, manned by the "Dragon Slayers" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 11.
Before they fly, the squadron has to pre-flight check the aircraft and all of their gear, said Lt. Kevin Bullock, a pilot for HSC-11. They also coordinate with the other air assets and talk about their game plan. The crew of the helicopter is consistently watching out for the strike group, said Bullock. The same vessels and aircraft are monitored from an aerial view.
"We're defending the strike group," added Bullock. "That's our job. We're looking for things that might interfere with our progress."
Lt. Christian Suszan, Harry S. Truman's assistant navigator, said that it takes several departments for a successful strait transit.
Intelligence has to be gathered. Threats have to be assessed. The ship needs to be powered and steered. It takes a variety of departments working together.
While the transit through the strait seems as simple as any other sailing maneuver, it's not. It takes inter-departmental cooperation and communication.
"It really takes everybody to be on their 'A' game," said Suszan. "We have a lot of additional watchstanders and all of those different entities have to work together to make sure we get from point 'A' to point 'B' safely."
Harry S. Truman is deployed in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations supporting maritime security operations and U.S. national security interests.