NAVAL STATION NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- More than 5,400 Sailors from USS Enterprise (CVN 65) returned home Nov. 18 after completing a successful six-month deployment in support of the on-going rotation of forward-deployed forces.
Enterprise deployed May 2 as the flagship of the Enterprise Strike Group (ENT CSG) and supported operations in the U.S. 5th, 6th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility (AOR).
While in 5th Fleet, ENT CSG was instrumental in the war on terrorism, conducting combat operations in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom, and Operation Medusa, as well as conducting maritime security operations. From early September through Nov. 1, Enterprise-based aircraft expended more than 130 precision weapons against Taliban extremists in Afghanistan.
"The 2006 summer deployment of the Enterprise Strike Group is historic for a variety of reasons," said Rear Adm. Ray Spicer, commander of the Enterprise Strike Group. "From miles traveled, missions flown, distinguished visitors hosted - this strike group is the epitome of flexibility, engagement and forward presence. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Western Pacific Ocean, this strike group answered the nation's call."
"This deployment assured our nations newest partners in the global war on terrorism, reinforced enduring ties with long-standing friends and allies throughout the world, deterred those who plot against our nation, and brought triumph against the enemies of peace and security," added Capt. Larry Rice, commanding officer of Enterprise.
Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, embarked on Enterprise, flew nearly 23,000 hours, including nearly 12,000 hours of combat missions in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
"Carrier Air Wing 1 and the entire Enterprise Strike Group team were prepared to flexibly and effectively support a variety of missions," said Capt. Mark Wralstad, commander, CVW-1. "Whether we operated carrier-based aircraft from land, engaged our nation's enemies from the sea, or engaged our friends and allies from the flight deck of Enterprise, the entire strike group helped to set the conditions for security and stability throughout the world."
Enterprise also led the way in promoting maritime leadership through cooperation with American allies abroad during their deployment. The ship entertained hundreds of foreign military officials, dignitaries and distinguished visitors in every numbered fleet and hosted numerous receptions and press conferences in the 6th Fleet and 7th Fleet AORs, including the Split, Croatia, Medal of Honor presentation ceremony for the family of Chief Watertender Peter Tomich. Tomich, a Croatian-American, was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroic actions aboard USS Utah (BB 31) during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.
Sailors and Marines from Enterprise spread goodwill throughout the world by participating in more than 30 community relations (COMREL) projects, totaling nearly 2,800 man-hours, during port visits in the 6th and 7th Fleet AORs. Hundreds of Sailors and Marines made a positive impact in Split, Croatia; Souda Bay, Greece; Pusan, Korea; Hong Kong; Singapore; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Lisbon, Portgual.
"Whether it was combat missions for Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom, coalition engagement, community relations project, or even Sailors and Marines on liberty from Split to Pusan, everyone serving in the Enterprise Strike Group made sacrifices, and I am proud of each and every one of them," continued Spicer. "The Sailors and Marines of Enterprise Strike Group proved to be valuable ambassadors, teachers, mentors and friends."
Enterprise Strike Group ships served as ambassadors in every port, opening their brows to more than 3,600 visitors during their eight port calls. Additionally, Enterprise finished its deployment by hosting the Navy's first trans-Atlantic "Tiger Cruise" in more than 30 years for friends and family of crew members. The Big "E" Tiger Cruise began in Lisbon, Portugal, Nov. 10.
During its deployment, Enterprise steamed nearly 60,000 miles, dropped 137 precision weapons over nearly 8,500 sorties flown, and spent nearly $10 million on feeding the crew. 363 Sailors reenlisted for a total of nearly $6.5 million in tax-free selective reenlistment bonuses (SRB). While those numbers are certainly impressive, none of them may be as important to the crew as the nearly 15.6 million emails sent and received aboard Enterprise.
"I am humbled at the dedication and sacrifice of our families," said Spicer. "Thousands of emails, cards, care packages, and phone calls - or fantastic programs like United Through Reading - all of these helping each of us to maintain those vital connections to our loved ones."
"The ombudsmen and the families they work so hard for are the true heroes of this deployment," said Rice. "Their sacrifice is immeasurable, and we are grateful for their concern and commitment to our families."
The Enterprise Carrier Strike Group (ENTSTKGRU) is comprised of CVW-1, Destroyer Squadron 2, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Enterprise, the guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul (DDG 74), the guided-missile frigate USS Nicholas (FFG 47), the fast-combat support ship USS Supply (T-AOE 6), and the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55).
The squadrons of CVW-1 include the "Sidewinders" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 86, the "Checkmates" of VFA-211, the "Knighthawks" of VFA-136, the "Thunderbolts" of Marine Strike Fighter Squadron (VMFA) 251, the "Screwtops" of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123, the "Rooks" of Tactical Electronic Warfare 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.
For related news, visit the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn65/.