USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) departed Norfolk Naval Station March 11 on the ship's 22nd and final deployment.
Enterprise is slated to deploy to the U.S. Navy's 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation as part of an ongoing rotation of U.S. forces supporting maritime security operations in international waters around the globe.
Working with allied and partner maritime forces, the Enterprise and her accompanying strike group will focus heavily on maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts designed to maintain regional stability.
The Enterprise Carrier Strike Group consists of approximately 5,500 Sailors and Marines who, during the last few months, successfully completed a series of complex training events and certifications to ensure they were capable of operating effectively and safely together.
"This Strike Group is trained and ready for the full spectrum of operations," said Rear Adm. Ted Carter, commander, Enterprise Carrier Strike Group. "We're ready to maintain freedom of the sea lanes, project power if directed to do so, and certainly perform a presence mission."
These skills, which will be vital as the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group travels to the 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), were recently tested during the carrier's Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX).
"During my time as Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, I haven't sent a strike group underway that is as ready as you are," said Adm. John C. Harvey, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, while addressing the crew of Enterprise prior to the ship getting underway. "No one has done as much to get ready, worked as hard, and accomplished as much in every warfare area. You should be very proud of what you're going to be doing once you get to where you're going...where the business of the nation needs you."
For Enterprise, the Navy's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the deployment represents the culmination of more than 50 years of distinguished service.
Commissioned in 1961, the Enterprise is both the largest and oldest active combat vessel in the Navy.
Enterprise's age, however, does not impact its effectiveness.
"Enterprise is as ready and capable as she has ever been throughout her 50 years," said Capt. William C. Hamilton, Commanding Officer of Enterprise. "The ship and crew's performance during work-ups demonstrates that the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier has never been more relevant."
Throughout its storied history, Enterprise has played a role in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, and was one of the first Navy assets deployed following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The importance of the role Enterprise has played in both national and naval history is a fact not lost on the Sailors and Marines currently aboard the ship.
"The crew is very mindful that we are following the legacy of the more than 200,000 Sailors who have come before us during the last 50 years," said Hamilton. "It's the Sailors of this great warship, and the Sailors that have served aboard Big E over the past half-century that have established the legacy she enjoys."
Enterprise was designed in the late 50's for a 25-year lifespan, and the Nimitz-class carriers were designed for 50 years. "To effectively double the service life of a ship as complex as Enterprise speaks volumes about the design strengths of the world's first nuclear-powered carrier, the Navy's commitment to cost effectiveness, and our Sailors hard work and innovation throughout the last half-century to keep her going strong," said Hamilton.
Enterprise is scheduled for deactivation and eventual decommissioning following its anticipated return later this year, marking the end of the carrier's legendary 50-plus years of service.
The Enterprise Carrier Strike Group is comprised of Enterprise, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2, guided-missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69), and guided-missile destroyers USS Porter (DDG 78), USS Nitze (DDG 94), and USS James E. Williams (DDG 95).
CVW-1 is comprised of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 11, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 211, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 136, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 251, Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 137, Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123 and Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron (HS) 11.
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