USS CARL VINSON (NNS) -- The staff of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 31 returned home Aug. 1 after completing a highly successful deployment with the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Carrier Strike Group, including more than three months of ground-breaking operations in the Persian Gulf, which concluded July 1.
Led by Commodore Capt. Pete Gumataotao, the embarked staff is comprised of several surface warfare officers, a naval aviator, a submarine officer and a handful of enlisted Sailors. Their primary focus while in the Gulf was running the day-to-day operations concerning Operation Sea Dragon - a multinational, multifaceted effort to apply maritime security operations (MSO) in the Persian Gulf - and conducting maritime training with regional nations.
MSO is aimed at setting the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment. Illicit activity at sea has a global impact. MSO pressurizes the maritime environment and is the single most significant component of the conventional maritime effort against terrorism.
"Primarily, what we're focused on is denying al-Qaida, and their associated groups, the use of the maritime environment," said DESRON 31's Chief of Staff, Lt. Cmdr. T.S. Steadman. "To [put] it in perspective, the people on the ground in Iraq are doing a very good job of identifying where insurgents are coming from. It only makes sense, though, that if we close off all the other [land] entry routes, then at some point in time they are going to try and use the Persian Gulf...the maritime lanes."
Ships under the control of DESRON 31 conducted more than 80 boarding evolutions while working in cooperation with British, Italian, Australian, Canadian and regional forces.
"On any given day, you have over 15,000 surface craft - [ranging] from a dhow to a commercial ship - operating in the Persian Gulf," said Steadman. "The likelihood of a few of those vessels moving arms, weapons, WMDs (weapons of mass destruction), people - stuff like that - into Iraq or elsewhere for the purpose of aiding the insurgents in Iraq or other terrorist organizations is pretty good. So, specifically, we're trying to close that knot."
In the midst of securing and stabilizing the region, DESRON 31 ships extended themselves even further to supply humanitarian assistance to local fishermen. May 12, USS Mustin (DDG 89) responded to a distress call from the motor vessel Olympias. When they arrived, Olympias was ablaze and the crew was abandoning ship. Mustin's quick response saved 27 fishermen and ultimately aided in 100 percent accountability of Olympias' crew.
"[Humanitarian assistance] is fundamental to what we're doing," said Steadman. "It's all about trying to show the true heart of the United States."
DESRON 31 is homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and includes USS Chafee (DDG 90), USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93), USS Crommelin (FFG 37), USS Hopper (DDG 70), USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60), USS Russell (DDG 59), USS Reuben James (FFG 57) and USS O'Kane (DDG 77).
The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group includes Carrier Strike Group 3, Carrier Air Wing 9, DESRON 31, the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54), the guided-missile destroyers USS O'Kane (DDG 77) and Mustin, and the fast combat support ship USS Camden (AOE 2).
The squadrons of Carrier Air Wing 9 include the Blue Diamonds of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 146, the Argonauts of VFA-147, the Black Knights of VFA-154, the Death Rattlers of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 323, the Screwbirds of Sea Control Squadron (VS) 33, the Golden Hawks of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 112, the Yellow Jackets of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 138, the Providers of Carrier Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30, and the Eightballers of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 8.
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