ABOARD USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (NNS) -- USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 launched their first aircraft in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) July 10, providing critical overhead support to Multi-national Corps-Iraq and Iraqi forces.
"We need to focus on our mission and think about the troops on the ground. They need us. We need to be overhead, spot-on, in support of ongoing security and stability operations," said Cmdr. Dave Landess, commanding officer of Strike Fighter (VF) 103, the F-14 Tomcat squadron in the John F. Kennedy Carrier Strike Group (CSG).
Rear Adm. Donald K. Bullard, who assumed command of U.S. 5th Fleet's Task Force 50 July 7, also commands the CSG, including Landess' Tomcat squadron - and eight others currently operating in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
The Kennedy CSG, which includes the presidential namesake ship, USS Vicksburg (CG 69), USS Seattle (AOE 3), USS Spruance (DD 963), USS Toledo (SSN 769) and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), is one of seven currently taking part in Summer Pulse '04.
Summer Pulse marks the first under the Navy's new Fleet Response Plan (FRP). FRP allows the service to provide combatant commanders ready forces, able to respond quickly in times of crises. Naval leaders can consistently deliver six forward-deployed, or ready-to-surge, carrier strike groups - almost immediately, within 30 days, plus two additional CSGs that are in the basic training phase in 90 days or less.
With seven carrier strike groups operating in five theaters, the Navy is validating its capability to deploy multiple carrier strike groups should a surge of this magnitude be required by real-world circumstances.
"We are doing the nation's business, and they are counting on us," said Rear Adm. Donald K. Bullard, commander of the Kennedy Strike Group. We have prepared, and we are combat-ready. Now, we must be perfect in our planning and execution."
CVW-17 conducted more than 70 sorties its initial day of on-station flights, a third of which were in support of OIF.
Units in the Kennedy CSG left their stateside homeports June 7 after months of pre-deployment exercises, most of them conducted while underway.
"This is the end of a lot of hard training. It's what we're trained to do," said Landess, who flew one of the first OIF flights off the warship. "Today's mission is a validation of the tactics we've developed, all the hard work we've invested, and the time we've spent away from home."
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