SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The last Carrier Strike Group (CSG) from the combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom is returning home. The Nimitz CSG is scheduled to return to its homeport of San Diego Nov. 5, following a highly successful eight-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).
Aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) and combat support ship USS Bridge (AOE 10) will first make a brief port call in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Oct. 27, before getting underway for their final leg home Oct. 31.
The first ship from the Nimitz CSG to return home will be the Pearl Harbor-based Aegis cruiser, USS Chosin (CG 65), arriving Naval Station Peal Harbor Nov. 2.
As Nimitz approaches the Southern California coast Nov. 4, Carrier Air Wing 11 squadrons will be next to make homecomings, as they conduct a "fly off" of more than 70 aircraft from the aircraft carrier. The aircrews and aircraft will fly into the following four homeports: Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.; Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.; Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu, Calif.; Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
The following day, Nov. 5, Nimitz will pull into San Diego Bay and moor at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.
During the ship's deployment, Nimitz flew more than 6,500 missions in direct support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In addition, this was the first deployment of the F/A-18F Super Hornet (two-seat version) and E-2C Hawkeye 2000. Nimitz is also the first aircraft carrier to deploy with two Super Hornet squadrons. This was Nimitz's first deployment since their major overhaul in 1997 and its first since relocating to San Diego in 2001.
Princeton will also return to her homeport Nov. 5 at Naval Station San Diego. During her deployment, Princeton escorted Nimitz while performing duties as Arabian Gulf Air Defense Commander and Tactical Data Coordinator. Princeton also spent several weeks as the Northern Arabian Gulf Maritime Intercept Commander, directing a coalition of naval forces providing security throughout Iraqi territorial waterways.
Also returning to San Diego is the Nimitz Strike Group's Sea Combat Commander, Destroyer Squadron (CDS) 23, the famed squadron of former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Arleigh Burke during World War II. Throughout the deployment, the staff coordinated defense of the Strike Group against surface and sub-surface threats. They also served as Escort Coordinator in the Arabian Gulf, assigning escort ships to military and merchant ships transiting through strategic waterways.
The carrier strike group's fast combat support ship, Bridge, will also arrive home to Naval Station Bremerton, Nov. 5. Bridge's crew conducted more than 200 underway replenishment evolutions, delivering more than 90 million gallons of fuel to CSG ships and enabling them to maintain a constant presence in the region.
The Aegis destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) returns home to Naval Station San Diego Nov. 8. Fitzgerald provided escort of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) during air strikes into Iraq and was later designated flagship for Commander of Maritime Interception Operations in the North Arabian Gulf. Fitzgerald also served in an Air Defense role for U.S. and coalition ships operating in the Gulf of Oman and North Arabian Sea, in addition to escort of merchant ships.
USS Rodney M. Davis (FFG 60) will be the final Nimitz CSG ship to return home, arriving in Everett, Wash., Nov. 10, after making a brief stop in San Diego Nov. 7 to offload its helicopter detachment. During the deployment, Rodney M. Davis was designated as flagship for the commander of Maritime Interception Operations in the North Arabian Gulf, intercepting ships suspected of transporting illegal cargo, and also conducted similar operations with coalition forces in the Southern Arabian Gulf. When not in the North Arabian Gulf, Rodney M. Davis escorted numerous merchant and military ships through strategic waterways delivering critical supplies, troops, and humanitarian assistance to Iraq.
Nimitz and her crew departed San Diego March 3. The Nimitz CSG demonstrated the flexibility of U.S. naval forces by providing support in the 3rd, 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility, all in a single deployment. First of the Nimitz-class carriers, Nimitz was commissioned May 3, 1975. Displacing more than 95,000 tons, Nimitz is home to more than 5,000 Sailors, as well as approximately 70 combat and support aircraft. From her 4.5-acre flight deck, Nimitz can quickly launch and recover the world's most modern military aircraft to operate with other elements of the U.S. Armed Forces, as well as those of allied nations.
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