ABOARD USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- As the only carrier strike group currently in the region, USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3 helped provide on-call air support for coalition and Iraqi forces during the Iraqi elections, Jan. 30.
"It's a huge step [for Iraqis]," said Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 115 pilot Capt. Benjamin Taylor. "We were there to give them every bit of support we could."
That support came mostly with air presence provided by pilots of CVW-3. Though the election showed an increase of air activity, presence has been the major objective for U.S. air operations over the Middle East, and Truman and CVW-3 stepped up the tempo of their mission to support security efforts for the elections.
"We fly over populated areas in Iraq, letting people of Iraq know we are there to support them, as well as to let insurgents know that if they try to harm people, that we'll be there for the Iraqi people, as well as our friendlies on the ground," said Taylor.
Capt. Jim Cook, deputy commander of CVW-3, said air presence is just one part of the multi-faceted mission in Iraq. He emphasized that the mission hasn't been altered in view of the elections.
"We did exactly the same thing we do every day, just a little more of it."
Truman Sailors and Marines launched and recovered 32 sorties ranging from surveillance to strike fighter aircraft on election day. Truman's aircraft flew 176 flight hours, and conducted roughly 16 straight hours of flight deck operations, all without the need to expend ordnance.
"It's rewarding," said Taylor. "We'll be able to look back 30 years from now and know that the people on the boat, the pilots, as well as the Marines and Soldiers on the ground were part of this."
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