The U.S. Navy Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group returned home to Naval Station Norfolk on Aug. 9 after seven months operating in 5th and 6th Fleet.
Returning ships include the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (IKE) (CVN 69) and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56). More than 1,800 Navy aviators from nine squadrons from Carrier Air Wing Three (CVW) 3 returned August 6-7 to their home bases in Naval Air Station Oceana, Norfolk Naval Station, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, and Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida.
Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72), Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) and USS Truxtun (DDG 103) are scheduled to return to Norfolk Aug. 10. USS Stout (DDG 55) remains on deployment and will return to Norfolk at a future date.
Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (CSG) ships departed Norfolk, Va., Jan. 17, for the strike group’s Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) and follow-on deployment.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, IKECSG continued operations to maintain maritime stability and security and ensure access, deter aggression, and defend U.S., allied and partner interests.
“Words cannot express the admiration I have for each and every Sailor onboard. These young men and women were thrust into a situation no one could have predicted and they responded as only Navy Sailors can – they adapted and overcame the adversity. I witnessed their excellence day in and day out as they accomplished repairs never before attempted at sea,” said Capt. Kyle Higgins, Ike’s commanding officer. “I am deeply humbled to have the privilege of working alongside them. They are what make our Navy the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen.”
Sailors assigned to the Eisenhower and San Jacinto transited to the equator and participated in a unique crossing the line ceremony, becoming the Navy’s first ‘Iron Shellbacks,’ with more than 100 days at sea May 14. Ike petitioned Naval History and Heritage Command to commemorate this feat in conjunction with crossing the equator as a new title: ‘Iron Shellback.’
While in U.S. 5th Fleet, Vella Gulf, James E. Williams, Stout and Truxtun participated in Operation Sentinel, providing freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in and out of the heavily transited Strait of Hormuz and Strait of Bab el Mandeb. These operations were instrumental in maintaining stability throughout the region.
Carrier Air Wing Three (CVW) 3 supported Central Command with 166 sorties and 1,135 flight hours in support Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, and 112 sorties and 492 flight hours in support of Strait of Hormuz transits and Deliberate Presence Patrols. During deployment, CVW-3 completed 10,466 rotary and fixed wing sorties, 7,751 traps with more than 21,995 mishap-free flight hours.
“I could not have asked for greater effort from the CVW-3/IKE team during this challenging deployment. The professionalism of my aircrew and the sailors sweating through seven months of no port visit operations was simply eye-watering,” said Capt. Trevor Estes, commander Carrier Air Wing 3. “I truly hope that every member of this team has the opportunity they deserve to relax and enjoy time with family and friends post deployment. In the end, I want the team to know how thankful I am for them every day.”
IKECSG ships each sailed more than 60,000 nautical miles, operating dynamically through multiple exercises with allies and partners and dual-carriers operations with the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). The ships completed multiple strait and choke point transits, including the Strait of Gibraltar, the Suez Canal, Strait of Hormuz and Strait of Bab el Mandeb.
Demonstrating resiliency and self-sufficiency, Sailors from across the strike group and air wing made several complex repairs to vital equipment and systems, correcting more than 500 category 3 and 4 CASREPs, that would normally be conducted at depot level, or require onboard technical assist visits.
“Our Sailors inspire me with their grit, pride and professionalism. They are the back bone of IKE Strike Group’s warfighting excellence,” said Rear Adm. Brendan McLane, commander, Carrier Strike Group 10. “IKE CSG Sailors demonstrated resiliency in the face of adversity by their ingenuity, flexibility, and self-sufficiency. They were a testament to the strike group’s ability to adapt and overcome the tough challenges of this deployment.”
Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group includes the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), commanded by Capt. Kyle Higgins; Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers USS San Jacinto (CG 56), commanded by Capt. Edward Crossman, and USS Vella Gulf (CG 72), commanded by Capt. Michael Desmond; Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Stout (DDG 55), USS James E. Williams (DDG 95), and USS Truxtun (DDG 103); and the staffs of Carrier Strike Group 10 commanded by Rear Adm. Brendan McLane and Destroyer Squadron 26 commanded by Capt. Zoah Scheneman.
Squadrons of CVW-3, commanded by Capt. Trevor Estes, embarked on Eisenhower include Strike Fighter Squadrons “Fighting Swordsmen” of VFA-32, “Gunslingers” of VFA-105, “Wildcats” of VFA-131, “Rampagers” of VFA-83; “Dusty Dogs” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron HSC-7; “Swamp Foxes” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron HSM-74; “Screwtops” of Airborne Command and Control Squadron VAW-123; “Zappers” of Electronic Attack Squadron VAQ-130; and a detachment from Fleet Logistics Support Squadron VRC-40 “Rawhides.