USS CARL VINSON (NNS) -- Aircraft aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) began their fly off July 30, marking the beginning of the end of the deployment for the squadrons of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9.
Based out of Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore, Calif., CVW-9 and the nine squadrons that comprise it are concluding a highly successful six-plus month around-the-world combat deployment as part of the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group team.
During more than 100 days in the Persian Gulf, the Carl Vinson/Carrier Air Wing 9 team launched more than 6,500 sorties totaling more than 20,000 flight hours. Most of these sorties were in direct support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the Gulf, playing a vital role in each of those missions.
With missions that varied from basic air patrol to calculated ordnance delivery, the air wing became a vital and well-utilized asset for the U.S. and coalition forces around the Gulf.
"We had the lion's share of the operations supporting the forces on the ground," said Commander, Carrier Air Wing 9, Capt. Mike Spence. "We had an obligation to fly long missions over the course of a day, and that meant that our day was generally about 13 to 13-and-a-half hours of flying, plus all the preparations."
"The four F-18 squadrons have logged 2,600 hours in support of OIF from the 20th of March until the 13th of June, covering about 1,400 vulnerability window periods," added the Deputy Commander of Carrier Air Wing 9, Marine Col. Douglas Yurovich. "So, Carrier Air Wing 9 along with Carl Vinson brings the largest concentration of strike fighters of any assets supporting OIF in one package."
For the individual squadrons such as Sea Control Squadron (VS) 33, the Screwbirds, the teamwork between the air wing and Carl Vinson was unparalleled.
"The working relationship between the squadron and the ship's supply have been great," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Timothy King, maintenance material control officer for VS-33. "There is much more coordination, and it sets new standards. The line of communication is open more here than with other carriers I've been on."
This deployment is the twilight deployment for the Screwbirds, and King believes there is no better last partner for them to have than the crew of Carl Vinson.
"It is bittersweet," said King. "I'd love to see the squadron stick around, but this cruise has become a good note to end on."
The Screwbirds, along with the rest of Air Wing 9, joined Carl Vinson for deployment Jan. 18. The Vinson/Air Wing 9 team became a part of OIF and MSO in the Persian Gulf March 20. This was the beginning of a successful, warfare-molding deployment, according to Yurovich.
"I think we've made great strides in trying to find out what normal operations in the Gulf are, and how we can interdict that - how we can stop the bad guys from getting stuff into the country via the waterways," he said. "I think that was the admiral's goal coming in, and I think he's really advanced the art of that warfare while we've been here."
Marine Corps Air Station Miramar-based Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 323, NAS Whidbey Island, Wash.-based Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 138, and NAS North Island, Calif.-based VS-33 returned July 30.
Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore-based Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 squadrons - Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 146, VFA-147, and VFA-154 returned July 31.
NAS Point Mugu, Calif.-based Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 112 and the NAS North Island, Calif.-based Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 Detachment 4 returned July 31.
Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron (HS) 8, based at NAS North Island, Calif., will return Aug. 3.
The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group includes Carl Vinson - which shifted homeport during the deployment from Naval Base Kitsap, Bremerton, Wash., to Naval Station Norfolk, Va. - the Naval Station San Diego-based guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) and guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89), the Naval Station Pearl Harbor-based guided-missile destroyer USS O'Kane (DDG 77), and the Naval Base Kitsap-based fast combat support ship USS Camden (AOE 2).
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