ABOARD USS KITTY HAWK, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) and the Kitty Hawk Strike Group return to their forward-deployed port of Yokosuka, Japan, May 6, after more than 100 consecutive days underway in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Southern Watch (OSW).
During a deployment beginning Jan. 23, Kitty Hawk and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, with a total complement of 5,336 crew members, received the call to transit to the 5th Fleet Area of Operations, Feb. 11.
Operating in the 5th Fleet region, the ship's crew suffered the loss of two officers. Lt. Tom Adams, a recently transferred crew member of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 115, died in a helicopter crash during the opening hours of the operation. He was participating in a military foreign exchange program at the time. Lt. Nathan White, of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 195, was killed in combat actions during a night close-air support mission April 2.
In the Arabian Gulf, Kitty Hawk, now affectionately known as the "Battle Cat," served at the forefront of operations with more than 3,000 sorties launched and nearly 900,000 pounds of ordnance expended in support of OIF.
Capt. Tom Parker, Kitty Hawk's commanding officer, says he is fortunate to have led the Battle Cat and its Sailors.
"The fact that this great ship has recently completed a combat cruise, and I have had the ineffable honor of commanding America's finest men and women in a combat zone, fills me with pride and a profound sense of gratitude that I have had this opportunity," Parker said.
"Taking command of the Battle Cat is the greatest honor of my life and the culmination of my career," Parker added. "And I pray every day that I will be worthy of this responsibility. I've never had a more rewarding or fulfilling job. And I don't think one exists, either in or outside the service. Please don't tell the President, he'll want my job!"
Also during this underway period, Commander, Naval Air Forces Pacific, recognized crew members of four departments for their outstanding performance and proficiency while performing their respective duties. Supply was awarded its 4th consecutive Blue "E"; Medical received a Blue "M"; Weapons, a Black "W"; and Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD), its fifth Black "E".
AIMD repaired 9,408 components at a ready-for-issue rate of 66 percent and decreased their maintenance backlog by 65 percent.
The safety department reported zero safety related incidents.
The legal department assisted the crew by e-filing 2,232 tax refunds, totaling almost $3 million in refunds, and offering the equivalent of $304,173 in accounting services.
According to the Command Career Counselor's office, reenlistments during the deployment period totaled 129. Of those Sailors, 69 received selective reenlistment bonuses totaling $1 and-a-half million.
In an unprecedented effort, the Battle Cat also participated in the Department of Defense's media embed program. Kitty Hawk successfully embedded 41 media personnel representing or originating from 15 countries. This amounted to 756 man-days during which journalists were underway aboard Kitty Hawk covering combat operations.
The ship celebrated its 42nd anniversary while returning from OIF. Commissioned April 29, 1961, it remains America's oldest active warship.
To find more news about USS Kitty Hawk, visit the ship's Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cv63.