ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- The George H.W. Bush (GHWB) Carrier Strike Group is certified ready for combat operations after successfully completing its first Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) and Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX), Feb. 21.
The Strike Group assets departed their various homeports on or about Jan. 19 to begin final exercises before embarking on its first overseas deployment scheduled for spring of this year.
"This Strike Group was absolutely ready for these exercises, and our Sailors hit the ball out of the park," said Commander, Carrier Strike Group Two, Rear Adm. Nora W. Tyson. "This is America's newest strike group in America's newest aircraft carrier, and our team is strong and ready to go. At the end of the day, COMPTUEX and JTFEX are really tests of our ability to work as a team, and we nailed it. From the Sailors on USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) supporting the squadrons in the air wing to the cruisers and destroyers doing their job protecting and defending the carrier along with performing maritime security operations, everyone did their part, and because of that, this team excelled."
During COMPTUEX, the GHWB Strike Group entered into an intensive training scenario loosely based on geo-political conditions from around the globe. The scenarios, designed and executed by Strike Force Training Atlantic (SFTL), simulated many real-world situations that the GHWB Strike Group could encounter on deployment, including small boat attacks, mines, strait transits in hostile waters and aerial, surface and sub-surface threats. Each scenario built on the one before, testing both the individual components of the GHWB Strike Group, as well as its collective effectiveness.
"COMPTUEX is a complicated and advanced exercise, and it requires every asset within the Strike Group to be fully trained and ready to execute their mission," said SFTL commander Rear Adm. Dennis E. FitzPatrick. "I was very impressed with the level of commitment to success I saw throughout the Strike Group. The dedicated Sailors of the Strike Group were trained, mentored and assessed, and excelled at every challenge SFTL placed in front of them."
COMPTUEX was a 23-day evolution, and included all assets within the Strike Group, from the flagship George H.W. Bush to the squadrons of Carrier Air Wing EIGHT (CVW-8), the guided-missile cruisers USS Gettysburg (CG 64), USS Monterey (CG 61), and USS Anzio (CG 68), Destroyer Squadron 22 ships USS Mitscher (DDG 57) and USS Truxtun (DDG 103), and the Spanish frigate ESPS Almirante Juan de Borbn (F 102). All told, nearly 7,500 Sailors played a direct role in the evolution.
"The amount of coordination that goes into an exercise like COMPTUEX is phenomenal. The only way it works, the only way the assets within the Strike Group accomplish their own individual missions, is if they communicate effectively and work together. That teamwork mentality is vital, and our success during COMTPUEX and JTFEX tells me that this Strike Group is ready to deploy in support of our nation's interests and execute any tasking we may receive," said Tyson.
FitzPatrick echoed Tyson's sentiments.
"Teamwork is the key to mission accomplishment, and COMPTUEX and JTFEX are designed to test you. Every single Sailor had a role to play and every unit was critical to success. From the cruisers, to the destroyers, to the squadrons, to the aircraft carrier; each is strong as a single unit, but integrated effectively together and their overall strength is greater than their sum. This Strike Group knows how to work together and achieve mission success," said FitzPatrick.
Sonar Technician (Surface) 1st Class (SW/IUSS) Thomas Hoban, assigned to Operations Department aboard USS George H.W. Bush, is responsible for coordinating the Strike Group's antisubmarine warfare efforts, acting as the liaison between USS George H.W. Bush and the other ships in the Strike Group.
"This has been a very high operational tempo underway, from tracking submarines at 3 a.m. to standing your watch to going into general quarters," said Hoban. "It's been non-stop action all day long."
During COMPTUEX, boarding teams from ships throughout the Strike Group performed more than 20 practice visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) evolutions, and the eight squadrons assigned to the embarked air wing flew nearly 3,800 hours during 1,800 sorties.
On Feb. 11, George H.W. Bush moored pierside at Naval Station Mayport for the carrier's first ever liberty port. During the three-day visit, Sailors participated in events sponsored by the ship's Morale, Welfare and Recreation Office, including trips to Walt Disney World and the Daytona International Speedway, as well as a community relations project at the Florida Baptist Children's Home in Jacksonville. Other Strike Group ships visited Port Canaveral, Port Everglades, and Key West.
"We just relaxed and did some shopping and got something good to eat," said Information Systems Technician 3rd Class Jesse C. Daniel of George H.W. Bush's Combat Systems Department. "It was really nice to catch up on sleep and recharge and get some time to clear my head."
The Strike Group returned to sea Feb. 14 to begin the final exam - JTFEX. For nearly 10 days, SFTL evaluated the overall combat readiness of the GHWB Strike Group, specifically focusing on the Strike Group's ability to interact and operate with other U.S. military and coalition forces.
The Spanish frigate Borbn and its 240 sailors were fully integrated throughout both exercises, including several exchange visits between Borbn and George H.W. Bush Sailors. Because Borbn will participate in the early stages of the Strike Group's deployment, full engagement of crews, systems and protocol was critical. French navy assets, including the destroyer FS Primauguet (D 644) and the submarine FS Perle (S606), joined the Strike Group for JTFEX as well.
"The scenarios [the crew] experienced during COMPTUEX/JTFEX are based on real-world operations today's carrier strike groups can expect to face in the deployed environment," said FitzPatrick. "Geo-political situations are fluid and ever-changing across the globe, and leadership needs the multi-mission flexibility a strike group brings to their area of responsibility. The mission of our carrier strike groups can change at a moment's notice depending on real time events, and the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group Sailors are ready to deploy and accept any mission given to them."
"The Navy's carrier strike groups are critical to the nation's maritime strategy," said Tyson. "Our combined capabilities allow us to deploy to any region around the globe to lend support, whether it's to U.S. forces on the ground or to mariners in distress or to countries reeling from natural disaster. We are a powerful force for good, and our success during COMPTUEX and JTFEX is proof that this Strike Group is ready to take on any tasking we are given."
For more news from USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn77/.