ABOARD USS ENTERPRISE, At sea (NNS) -- Aircraft assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1 stationed aboard USS Enterprise (Big E) (CVN 65) provided their busiest day of support to International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops on the ground as part of Operations Medusa and Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Sept. 8.
According to Capt. Mark Wralstad, CVW-1 commander, the air wing's success is the result of great teamwork and coordination between the CVW-1/Enterprise team and the ISAF forces on the ground.
"In an operation like Enduring Freedom, it is critical to be able to provide exactly what the ground forces need and to do so in a timely manner. We have been able to do that daily as the result of hard work and a lot of incredible people," said Wralstad.
While the Enterprise-based aircraft provided support ashore to ISAF ground forces, the ISAF Air Component Commander, Air Commodore Bryan Collins, Royal Air Force, paid a personal call to the aircraft carrier for a familiarization visit.
Throughout Collins' overnight stay, CVW-1 aircraft were heavily involved in providing support for ISAF ground troops fighting Taliban extremists. According to Collins, the carrier's unique ability to project power from the sea, particularly the flexible nature of naval aviation, make CVW-1 an ideal choice for conducting flight operations for Operation Medusa.
"The sheer amount of power that the Enterprise can actually project, and where it can get that power to, is truly impressive," said Collins.
According to Collins, Enterprise aircraft have seamlessly integrated into the theater and have made their presence known to both the Taliban extremists and coalition partners on the ground. Enterprise aircraft are "going into Afghanistan and delivering as much ordnance as any other aircraft operating out of Afghanistan," said Collins.
While visiting the Big E, Collins observed both day and night flight operations from the flight deck and visited watchstanders on the carrier's navigation bridge, operations spaces, air traffic control center, and weapons production areas and magazines.
Collins also spent time in coordination and familiarization briefings for both Enterprise Strike Group (ENTSG) and the ISAF forces in Afghanistan, especially in light of the ship's sixth consecutive day supporting Operation Medusa.
"There has been a marked increase in the amount of air power that is available to ISAF forces [after Enterprise's arrival], which is actually critical at this time," said Collins. "A fresh supply of air power coming in with capabilities that are equal to, or better than, the current aircraft that are available has made a marked difference."
According to Collins, ISAF troops on the ground are "better prepared to fight the Taliban and other hostile forces in Afghanistan," as a result of the six consecutive days of CVW-1 strikes.
That preparation paid off during Collins' visit, as Enterprise aircraft provided close air support for ISAF troops encountering resistance from Taliban extremists in multiple locations around Afghanistan Sept. 8.
F/A-18F Super Hornets from the "Checkmates" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 211, based in Virginia Beach, Va., expended both Guided Bomb Unit (GBU) 12 and GBU 38 bombs against Taliban extremists and Taliban weapons fortifications west and northwest of Kandahar. The GBU-12 is a general-purpose, laser-guided 500-pound bomb. The GBU-38 is a general-purpose, Global Positioning System (GPS) guided 500-pound bomb, also known as the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM).
F/A-18C Hornets from the "Sidewinders" of VFA-86, based in Beaufort, S.C., expended GBU-12 bombs in an attack northwest of Kandahr, destroying a Taliban offensive weapons position.
F/A-18C Hornets from the "Knighthawks" of VFA-136, based in Virginia Beach, Va., expended both GBU 12 and GBU 38 bombs against Taliban fortifications and weapons caches west of Kandahar. At the request of ISAF ground troops, "Knighthawk" Hornets also conducted a strafing run against known Taliban fortifications west of Kandahar using the Hornet's M61A1 20mm gatling gun.
Since their arrival in the northern Arabian Sea, Enterprise-based aircraft have focused their efforts on protecting ISAF ground forces near Kandahar and have flown more than 120 sorties over the last six days and delivered dozens of precision weapons against Taliban buildings, fortifications, weapons caches and other extremist locations.
"We will continue to work hard to support Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom as we are called upon to do so," said Wralstad. "Our day-to-day focus is on operating effectively and safely, but our long term vision is to provide support in every area in which we are tasked."
In addition to the "Sidewinders" of VFA-86, the "Checkmates" of VFA-211 and the "Knighthawks" of VFA-136, other squadrons of CVW-1 include the "Thunderbolts" of Marine Strike Fighter Squadron (VMFA) 251, the "Screwtops" of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123, the "Rooks" of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 137, the "Maulers" of Sea Control Squadron (VS) 32, the "Rawhides" of Carrier Logistics Support (VRC) 40, and the "Dragonslayers" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 11.
Enterprise is the flagship in the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group, which includes the cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), destroyer USS McFaul (DDG 74), frigate USS Nicholas (FFG 47), all based in Norfolk, the attack submarine USS Alexandria (SSN 757), homeported in Groton, Conn., and the fast-combat supply ship USNS Supply (T-AOE-6), homeported in Earle, N.J.
The nuclear powered Enterprise and embarked Carrier Air Wing 1 departed Naval Station Norfolk May 2 for a regularly scheduled six-month deployment in support of the global war on terrorism.
The Enterprise Strike Group is currently operating in the northern Arabian Sea in support of maritime security operations and Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
For information on USS Enterprise, visit the ship's Web site at www.enterprise.navy.mil.
For related news, visit the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn65/.