USS JOHN C. STENNIS, At Sea (NNS) -- Elements of the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) Carrier Strike Group left San Diego, Jan. 20, after picking up Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, and began steaming west toward the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, which left its Bremerton, Wash., homeport Jan. 16, spent one day in port on-loading the air wing, and departed San Diego with the guided missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) and guided missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88).
The guided missile destroyers USS O'Kane (DDG 77) and USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60), homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, will join the group in transit.
Stennis and its strike group are scheduled to enter 5th Fleet's area of operation and provide support to U.S. and coalition forces operating there.
"We will support Operation Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, the Horn of Africa and maritime security operations with the purpose to provide regional and global stability," said Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn, Commander, Carrier Strike Group 3. "We've been preparing for this deployment for more than one year, we have trained and trained so that we are completely combat ready."
Since the beginning of 2006, Stennis has been completing required training events, qualifications and inspections, all leading up to certification as a combat-ready ship. Stennis has also conducted numerous exercises with its air wing and strike group in preparation for this deployment.
"We are ready, we are sustainable, we are flexible and we provide awesome combat capability," said Quinn. "Just the fact there are going to be two carrier strike groups operating in that region could deter any state or non-state sponsored organizations from doing something we wouldn't want them to do."
With its air wing embarked and its strike group assembled Stennis will steam toward the Persian Gulf and provide unmatched capability and flexibility wherever it is needed in the region.
"Not much else matters aside from the fact that when we send up aircraft, they'll be supporting our troops already fighting," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Edison Grace of air department. "I have friends on the ground out there and I'm looking forward to sending up planes to hopefully assist them in what they're doing."
Grace has been aboard the Stennis since May but has done two deployments to the Persian Gulf during his tour aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70).
"I think we all know why we're there and we'll be taking it one day at a time, rather two launches at a time," Grace said. "I've been looking forward to this deployment the entire year, in fact, for the last four years."
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