NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- More than 7,500 Sailors and Marines assigned to the ships and squadrons of the USS George Washington (CVN 73) Aircraft Carrier Battle Group (CVBG) will return to Norfolk this week, completing a six-month combat deployment in the Arabian Gulf, in addition to operations in the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
On Dec. 20, returning units include USS George Washington; Commander, Destroyer Squadron Two; the guided-missile cruisers USS Normandy (CG 60) and USS Monterey (CG 61); the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Laboon (DDG 58) and USS Mahan (DDG 72); and the fast combat support ship USNS Supply (AOE 6). The embarked squadrons of Carrier Air Wing 17 will fly off Dec. 19.
During their six-month deployment, George Washington launched approximately 10,000 sorties. These sorties included offensive strike missions, designed to dislodge both Taliban and Al-Qaida operatives. In August, George Washington and Normandy, steamed into the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch, enforcing the southern no-fly zone over Iraq. Carrier Air Wing 17 sorties marked the first time in a year that aircraft launched from a U.S. carrier would patrol the skies over Iraq in conjunction with other coalition aircraft.
"Again, we were there, dropping weapons when necessary to ensure that there would be a safe no-fly zone in southern Iraq," said Read Adm. Joseph A. Sestak Jr., George Washington Battle Group Commander. "We then came to 6th Fleet and maintained our readiness at an extraordinarily high level, ready to respond if our nation asked us to."
Ships of the George Washington Battle Group also participated in numerous exercises with allies in the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. This included Med Shark 2002, a joint task force exercise with the Royal Moroccan Navy and Air Force. In this exercise, USS Mahan and USNS Supply worked alongside four Moroccan warships, conducting maneuvering, flashing light and air-tracking exercises; boarding, undersea warfare and restricted transit drills; and surface gunfire exercises.
While deployed overseas, battle group ships visited 16 different countries, including Scotland, England, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Malta, Greece, Slovenia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
All of the Sailors and Marines with the George Washington Battle Group deployed from the Hampton Roads area June 20 and were relieved by the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Battle Group, which departed Norfolk Dec. 5.
Other ships of the battle group scheduled to return later this winter include the guided-missile frigate USS Kauffman (FFG 59), the guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) and the destroyer USS Arthur W. Radford (DD 968).
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