USS RONALD REAGAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Vice Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/commander, U.S. 5th Fleet (COMUSNAVCENT/5th Fleet), commander, Combined Maritime Forces visited USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Feb. 27 to welcome the ship's crew, air wing and embarked carrier strike group staff to the 5th Fleet area of operations (AOO).
The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is currently supporting Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, as well as conducting maritime security operations (MSO) in the Persian Gulf. Reagan's aircraft have been supporting ground troops in Iraqi around the clock since arriving in the 5th Fleet AOO, less than a week ago.
"Your critical support to U.S., Iraqi and multinational forces on the ground is vital," Walsh told Reagan Sailors. "Because of the contributions of the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen who preceded you, the Iraqi people have the opportunity to determine their own future, a future free from oppression. It's their country and their future. It's up to them to decide what Iraq will ultimately look like, but without your efforts and your guarantees, this will not be possible."
According to Walsh, MSO set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. MSO deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons and other material.
"With MSO, you will play a key role in helping to see the conditions necessary for stability in the region," said Walsh. "You are not in this alone. One-third of our maritime force is collation. It is important to understand that no one country can tackle this challenge alone given the vast expanse of the ocean and collective interest."
"You are arriving at a critical time," said Walsh. "While the mission may seem tedious and routine at times, the daily routine is the most important times to keep our skills sharp and focused. Those skills can't be summoned at the moment of crisis if they've been squandered by complacency, or inconsistency, or a compromise of our standards."
"The success of Maritime Security Operations and support to multinational forces on the ground in Operation Iraqi Freedom is now in your hands," said Walsh. "You are trained, ready, and I have every confidence that you will succeed."
"This is an important time in our history and one which I think you'll find both interesting and rewarding," said Walsh. "I am glad that you are here and that you will be playing a critical role in our efforts to help set the conditions for security and stability throughout the region."
During his visit, Walsh also met with chief petty officers from Reagan, Carrier Strike Group (CCSG) 7 and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 to discuss concerns and liberty policies in the 5th Fleet AOO.
Reagan is the Navy's newest Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and is currently on its maiden deployment. Commissioned in 2003, the San Diego-based aircraft carrier is part of a routine rotation of U.S. maritime forces in the U.S. 5th Fleet AOO.
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