CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- Thousands of family members and friends crowded the pier at Naval Air Station North Island July 6 to take part in the homecoming celebration for the maiden deployment of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), the Navy's newest Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
The nearly 5,000 Sailors assigned aboard Reagan, including Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7 and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14, concluded military operations as part of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 7 during a scheduled six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf and Western Pacific Ocean. During the deployment, the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group supported Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, conducted maritime security operations (MSO), as well as joint and coalition exercises and operations with many other countries and sister services.
The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is comprised of CVW-14, DESRON-7, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57), the guided-missile destroyers USS McCampbell (DDG 85) and USS Decatur (DDG 73), the fast-combat support ship USS Rainier (T-AOE 7), and Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Unit 11, Detachment (Det.) 15.
The squadrons of CVW-14 include the "Redcocks" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 22, the "Fist of the Fleet" of VFA-25, the "Stingers" of VFA-113, the "Eagles" of VFA-115, the "Black Eagles" of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 113, the "Cougars" of Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VAQ) 139, the "Providers" of Carrier Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30, and the "Black Knights" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 4.
Ronald Reagan and CVW-14 launched more than 6,100 sorties totaling more than 19,600 flight hours while operating in the Persian Gulf. Of those, more than 2,940 sorties and 14,200 flight hours were conducted in direct support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. As part of CVW-14, VAQ-139 was also the first EA-6B "Prowler" squadron to deploy with the Improved Capability Three (ICAP III) system. In addition, VFA-25, VFA-113, VFA-22 and VFA-115 were the first F/A-18 Hornet squadrons to deploy with ROVER (Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver), a capability to communicate and transfer video to the JTAC (Joint Terminal Air Controller) on the ground.
"The Ronald Reagan Strike Group has made a significant, positive contribution to military operations during this deployment," said Rear Adm. Michael H. Miller, commander, CSG 7.
"We proved that President Reagan's motto 'Peace through Strength' is as applicable today as it was during his administration. We've spent the past six months supporting the troops on the ground in Iraq, ensuring safe passage of ships in the Persian Gulf and Western Pacific, and working with other countries to ensure the peace and stability of their surrounding waters. With the speed, agility and persistence of this modern carrier strike group, we made a difference in helping to deter terrorism around the globe," he said.
Capt. Terry B. Kraft, Ronald Reagan's commanding officer, added, "Our success during three months of combat operations on our maiden deployment is a testament to this outstanding crew and air wing. Our performance here validates many months of training and the intense focus on our mission from start to finish. I couldn't be more proud of our Sailors."
According to Capt. Craig B. Williams, commander, CVW-14, the embarked air wing maintained an intense flight schedule not just during Operation Iraqi Freedom, but for the duration of the deployment.
"This air wing, comprised of some of the most advanced aircraft in the world, was key to supporting the coalition ground forces and deterring aggression from the insurgency inside Iraq," said Williams. "Our main focus on every combat mission was to provide critical support to the troops on the ground. I am very proud of every single squadron in CVW-14. They each played an essential role in their own unique way to ensure we continued to protect and save the lives of the Soldiers and Marines on the ground."
The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group also participated in "Valiant Shield 2006," a major military exercise that utilized three carrier strike groups, along with land based Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard assets, from June 17-23 off the coast of Guam.
During the six-month deployment, Ronald Reagan made several port calls including stops in Brisbane, Australia; Singapore; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Kuala Lumpur; and Hong Kong. Each port visit included community relations (COMREL) projects to help the local community and those in need.
Naval exercises were also conducted with Carrier Groups from France and India during the deployment. Members of EOD Unit 11, Det. 15 hunted IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as trained with the local police bomb disposal unit while the carrier strike group visited Hong Kong.
Additionally, Ronald Reagan hosted a number of distinguished visitors, including Vice Adm. Patrick Walsh, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/commander, U.S. 5th Fleet/commander, Combined Maritime Forces; Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SS/AW) Terry Scott; and several foreign military and government officials. Other visitors include actor Gary Sinise, country music singer Chris Gray, and several players from the National Football League (NFL).
In addition, the ship hosted 43 leaders from American business, industry and education institutions April 28, as part of the Department of Defense sponsored Joint Civilian Orientation Course (JCOC) while operating in the Persian Gulf.
During the deployment, Ronald Reagan Sailors set a number of records, including the most money ever raised by an aircraft carrier for the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS), and the most video recordings ever produced on a deployment for the United through Reading (UTR) program. Ronald Reagan Sailors also set a record for aircraft carriers by scoring 98.76 percent on the Maintenance, Material and Management (3M) inspection.
Commissioned in 2003, Ronald Reagan is the Navy's newest Nimitz-class nuclear powered aircraft carrier and departed San Diego Jan. 4 on her maiden deployment.
For related news, visit the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.