USS MASON, At sea (NNS) -- USS Mason (DDG 87) is conducting maritime operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and stands ready to project its sea power in support of USS Harry S. Truman's (CVN 75) airborne mission.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer was commissioned in 2003 and is currently on its maiden deployment as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (CSG).
While Truman and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3 stand in the spotlight of the global war on terror in the Persian Gulf, the show could not go on without the supporting cast.
"We do a lot of things. It all depends on what the mission is," said Mason Commanding Officer Cmdr. Gene Black. "We've acted as air defense commander, and we've done Operation Sea Dragon (OSD) II to deter international terrorism and protect the maritime industry. We've done a lot of significant regional engagement."
Most often, Mason conducts visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) operations with merchant vessels in the area to detect, deter and disrupt terrorist or smuggling activity.
"We can do undersea warfare," said Black. "This ship is quiet; it hears and sees things far away. We've been doing strike exercises with the Tomahawk [land attack missile] for two years, and we are absolutely on top of the game. We can be five miles off the beach if needed. All [the strike group] has to do is ask."
Recently, however, they took on a temporary role watching CVW-3's back during missions over Iraq.
While USS Monterey (CG 61) usually takes control as air defense commander for CVW-3's sorties in support of OIF, Black said Mason recently took the helm while Monterey was inport for upkeep purposes.
"It was exciting, but it was a heavy load for us," said Black, adding that the slightly larger cruiser platform has more operations crew members suited to the task.
Even so, Mason is hardly less than capable of performing any task required by the strike group. One of the newest ships in the fleet, Mason is equipped with a state-of-the-art combat computer system and display interface.
"We have the latest AEGIS combat system with outstanding graphics that will display data to make better decisions faster," said Black. "We also have the newest Sea Sparrow Missile System, one of about only two or three ships."
Mason will participate in the upcoming international defense exposition in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where Black said 750 companies will exhibit their equipment used aboard ships from countries including Italy, Germany, India and Pakistan.
For related news, visit the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75.