SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The four San Diego-based ships of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (CSG) returned to San Diego Sept. 30 following a six-month Western Pacific and Middle East deployment.
The guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) and the guided-missile destroyers USS Pinckney (DDG 91), USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) and USS Higgins (DDG 76) departed San Diego April 2 and deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet (C5F) and U.S 7th Fleet areas of operations.
Higgins and Princeton arrived in C5F May 8 to support Maritime Security Operations (MSO) with coalition partners. MSO help set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations. These operations seek to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.
Higgins played a critical role conducting MSO in the Persian Gulf. Higgins' visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) teams conducted Interaction Patrols (IPATS) in which they distributed information on coalition aims and objectives to three Iraqi dhows.
The teams also conducted security sweeps on board three Iraqi tugs and four super-tankers, thereby safeguarding the merchants in the region by deterring piracy and smuggling. Most notably, Higgins was the only ship in the Nimitz CSG to conduct a boarding of a tanker suspected of oil smuggling. After a thorough six-hour boarding, the VBSS team was able to clear the tanker, ensuring the safety and freedom of the high seas to merchants and traders in the area.
"We complemented the security efforts of our friends and allies in the region as they join us in maritime operations. With time, they will have the capability and capacity to protect the free flow of commerce and fishing activity in the region," said Cmdr. Winton Smith, Higgins' commanding officer.
Princeton served as the Air Defense Commander for Nimitz throughout the carrier's time in the Persian Gulf. As the carrier's "shotgun," Princeton provided close-in air defense, airspace awareness, and, if needed, acted as a ready platform for search and rescue.
While operating in some of the busiest waters in the world, Pinckney participated in Cooperation Afloat Readiness Training (CARAT) exercise with the Republic of Singapore Navy and three other U.S Navy ships. The bilateral force conducted air defense, anti-surface warfare, anti-subsurface warfare, and VBSS operations in the compressed waterspace of the South China Sea, validating current tactics, techniques and procedures and identifying areas for further development.
All four ships rejoined the Nimitz CSG Aug. 7-14 to participate in Exercise Valiant Shield 2007. Valiant Shield was a multi-dimensional joint exercise off the coast of Guam with U.S forces including the John C. Stennis and Kitty Hawk CSGs, more than 25 Navy ships, as well as numerous sub-surface, and U.S Navy and U.S Air Force aircraft.
In addition, John Paul Jones, Higgins, Princeton and Pinckney, along with the rest of the Nimitz CSG, joined the Kitty Hawk CSG and India's aircraft carrier INS Viraat (R 22) to participate in the multilateral Exercise Malabar 07-2. This annual exercise included ships from India, Australia, Japan and Singapore in the Bay of Bengal to advance mutual maritime understanding and interoperability.
John Paul Jones, Higgins, Princeton and Pinckney accomplished every assigned mission, contributing directly to Operations Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and working with regional navies to establish a more secure environment conducive to maritime trade.
"I am very proud of the crew," said Smith. "They overcame every challenge, performing to the best of their ability with pride, professionalism, and enthusiasm. They are America's best -- incredibly talented and devoted to serving their country and making the world a more stable and secure environment. We have mission accomplished and returned home safely. The crew's stellar performance has most certainly earned a relaxing leave period with friends and family."
John Paul Jones, Higgins, Princeton and Pinckney are part of the Nimitz CSG, commanded by Rear Adm. John Terence Blake.
Nimitz CSG is comprised of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) with embarked commander, Carrier Strike Group 11, embarked Carrier Air Wing 11 and embarked Destroyer Squadron 23. Additionally, the Nimitz CSG includes the Pearl Harbor-based guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90); Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 49 "Scorpions," and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit 11, Det 3.
For more news from Commander, Carrier Strike Group 11, Nimitz Strike Group, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/cdg5/ .