SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) returned to its homeport of San Diego Sept. 30, following a successful six-month deployment to promote peace, regional cooperation and stability in the Western Pacific and Middle East.
After departing San Diego April 2, Nimitz steamed directly to the U.S. 5th Fleet (C5F) area of operations to relieve USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and join USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). While deployed, the ship participated in joint and multilateral operations and exercises and the crew served as American ambassadors during several port calls.
Nimitz arrived in C5F May 8 and the squadrons of embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 began flying operations in support of ground troops participating in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. In two stints in the Gulf, CVW-11 flew 8,240 hours in direct support of both missions.
"This aircraft carrier has saved hundreds of British, American, Iraqi and Afghani lives," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Elias. "I could confidently say that every time [jets] fly overhead, it makes an insurgent think twice about committing an act against coalition forces, be it in Iraq or Afghanistan."
In addition, Nimitz made history as the first American aircraft carrier to make a port visit to India. The carrier joined the guided-missile destroyer USS Pinckney (DDG 91) for a port visit to Chennai, July 2-5, where senior leadership met with Indian military and government officials.
Sailors and Marines also had an opportunity to meet with locals while exploring the city on liberty and volunteering for community relations projects.
"We had 120 volunteers helping clean up the Vishranti Home for the Aged," said Chief Religious Programs Specialist (SW) Oliver Andrews from Nimitz' Religious Ministries Department. "I think that the crew's interaction with the people was a positive step in setting up future relations with India."
In all, 659 crew members from Nimitz and Pinckney donated over 3,900 hours of their time and labor to take part in 11 community relations projects in India.
After departing the Gulf, Nimitz joined the Stennis and Kitty Hawk Carrier Strike Groups, Aug. 7-14, for Exercise Valiant Shield 2007. More than 25 Navy ships joined units from the Army, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Air Force off the coast of Guam for the weeklong exercise. CVW-11, one of three air wings participating in the exercise, flew 677 sorties and 1,450 flight hours for the exercise, including maritime interdiction, defensive counter-air and tanking missions.
Throughout the deployment, Nimitz' Sailors strived to maintain the ship's material condition and kept a 95 percent PMS success rate. They managed to match that grade in a ship-wide 3M Inspection Aug. 24-25 and earned the best score ever by an aircraft carrier in the program's history, according to 3M inspectors.
"People really pay attention to detail around here and want to do their maintenance the right way," said Senior Chief Damage Controlman (SW/AW) Abraham Bryan, 3M coordinator for Nimitz. "That explains the excellent material condition of the ship, despite it being more than 30 years old. We're definitely battle-ready."
Nimitz returned to the waters off the coast of India Sept. 4 to join the Kitty Hawk CSG and India's aircraft carrier, INS Viraat (R 22), for the multilateral Exercise Malabar 07-2. An annual exercise between the navies of the United States and India, this iteration of the exercise was expanded to also include the navies of Japan, Australia and Singapore.
"The idea is to promote communication," said Commander, Carrier Strike Group 11, Rear Adm. Terry Blake, during a visit to Viraat Sept. 4. "This is the most complex series of events we've done to date."
During the exercise, Sailors from Nimitz cross-decked to Viraat and Indian Sailors visited Nimitz. The exercise included aviation, anti-submarine and multi-carrier operations and featuring more than 28 ships, 150 aircraft and 20,000 service members from five nations.
"In a sense, it is another day at sea with friends," said Indian Navy Rear Adm. Robin Dhowan, commander in chief, Indian Eastern Fleet. "It is another way of exercising. We feel at home with other navies and are happy to strengthen our friendships with them."
Aside from Chennai, Nimitz also made liberty port calls to Singapore, Hong Kong and the Middle East, where crew members not only enjoyed exploring the sites and culture of the foreign countries, but also contributed their time and hard work participating in community relations projects.
In all, more than 300 Sailors and Marines volunteered more than 1,250 man-hours performing eight community relations projects in Hong Kong Kong and Singapore.
Nimitz Commanding Officer Capt. Michael Manazir noted he is proud of the crew's performance while serving as American ambassadors abroad.
"I believe in trusting them to stick to the core values," Manazir said, "and I was so impressed with their performance as ambassadors. Every port call we make has strategic implications, and some are more fun than others, but wherever we went, I saw nothing but positive during our port visits."
Aviation Structural Mechanic 3rd Class (AW) Chaces Guevarra, who made her first deployment with Nimitz this summer, said she was impressed by the different places she visited.
"Hitting port made me realize that were not just traveling the world, we're accomplishing important missions and serving our country. Knowing this is a really good feeling to have," said Guevarra.
Nimitz began the home stretch of cruise with a port call to Hawaii Sept. 22-24. When they departed Hawaii, over 1,300 friends and family members joined the crew for the final voyage home. The ship put on a full slate of activities for the guests, including tours, a steel beach picnic and a movie premiere, but also displayed many of the ship's regular evolutions, such as flight operations, a gun shoot and replenishment at sea, so they could witness firsthand what their Sailors do at sea.
"Tiger Cruise is great for many reasons," said Lt. Cmdr. Michael Salka, Tiger Cruise coordinator for Nimitz. "It lets the public see where their tax dollars are going and the families get to appreciate and see up close what we do on a daily basis. It fosters the ties between the crew and family members. And it's definitely a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience for them to come out with the ship and look out at the middle of the ocean when there's absolutely nothing around."
Manazir said he is ecstatic with the crew's performance during this, his tenth deployment and first in command of an aircraft carrier.
"As a team, I think everything the Nimitz crew touched turned to gold," said Manazir. "Our goal is to be combat-ready upon arrival in the 5th Fleet and we were. Operationally, I believe we set and continue to set the standard for other carriers to follow. We have a metric that we set and an expectation of each other, and I think we're going to build on that. I expect great things from our next deployment."
CVW-11's squadrons include "Tophatters" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14, "Black Aces" of VFA-41, "Sunliners" of VFA-81, "Wallbangers" of Airborne Early Warning Squadron 117, "Red Devils" of Marine Corps Strike Fighter Squadron 232, "Black Ravens" of Electronic Warfare Squadron 135, "Providers" of Carrier Logistics Support Squadron 30 and the "Indians" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 6.
Nimitz is the flagship for Commander, Carrier Strike Group 11. Commanded by Rear Adm. Terry Blake, Nimitz CSG also includes embarked Destroyer Squadron 23 with guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59), guided-missile destroyers USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53), USS Higgins (DDG 76), USS Chafee (DDG 90) and USS Pinckney (DDG 91) as well as the "Scorpions" of Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 49, "Easy Riders" of HSL-37 and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11, Det. 3.
For more news from USS Nimitz, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn68/.