NORFOLK (NNS) -- Pilots and air crew from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 embarked on board the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike) returned from a nearly eight-month deployment May 21 and 22.
More than 1,600 Sailors from the air wing will return aboard Ike on May 23.
Commanded by Capt. Scott "Sterno" Stearney, CVW-7 flew more than 11,000 sorties and more than 31,500 hours, providing both air support for multinational coalition forces on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq and maritime security in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility (AOR).
CVW-7's 233-day deployment began Oct. 3, when the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (CSG) left its homeport of Norfolk, and headed east toward the Mediterranean Sea.
After transiting the Suez Canal and chopping into the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR on Oct. 30, CVW-7 began flying combat missions from the North Arabian Sea into Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) on Nov. 6.
Over the next six months, the Eisenhower CSG transited repeatedly between the North Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf to support the troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). In late February, Ike was joined in the theater by the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSCSG) 3. The strike groups conducted a dual-carrier exercise in the Persian Gulf demonstrating multidimensional task force operations.
"I'm extremely proud of our nearly 2,000 men and women of CVW-7. We were successful in supporting our coalition and regional allies flying missions in support of U.S. and multinational ground troops in both OIF and OEF. The hard work of the Sailors of CVW-7 helped safe lives everyday," said Stearney.
During the extended deployment, the two F/A-18 Hornet squadrons, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131 "Wildcats" and VFA-83 "Rampagers," and the two F/A-18E/F Super Hornet squadrons, VFA-103 "Jolly Rogers" and VFA-143 "Pukin' Dogs," expended more than 140 laser-guided bombs and Joint Direct Attack Munitions, and performed nearly 70 strafing runs using 20 mm cannons on numerous targets in support of ground forces.
This support for the global war on terrorism was in addition to the essential missions of strike group defense and maritime security operations. Of note, this deployment marked the first for VFA-103 and VFA-143 since their transition from the F-14 Tomcat to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
Command and control of all aircraft transiting in and out of overland missions, as well as all aircraft providing strike group defense and conducting traditional maritime security operations was professionally handled by the E-2C Hawkeyes of the Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 125 "Tigertails."
Dominance of the electromagnetic spectrum of both Iraq and Afghanistan was conducted simultaneously by the Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140 "Patriots," a first for any EA-6B Prowler squadron.
In addition to providing the strike group's anti-submarine and anti-surface defense, as well as combat search and rescue, the "Nightdippers" of Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron (HS) 5 conducted eight replenishments at sea and logistics flights into almost a dozen countries totaling more than 500,000 pounds of cargo and 900 passengers delivered.
This fleet support was in addition to the impressive performance of the Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 40 "Rawhides." Their two C-2 Greyhound aircraft transported more than 1.2 million pounds of cargo and nearly 5,000 passengers to and from Ike.
Having traveled more than 69,000 nautical miles, conducted operations in support of three campaigns, and visiting four foreign ports, CVW-7 began its transition home on May 21 with the fly-off of VRC-40. On May 22, air crews returned to Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Va., Jacksonville, Fla., and Oak Harbor, Wash.
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