USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) (TR) and associated strike group units completed their support of Maritime Security Operations (MSO) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) when the carrier and USS San Jacinto (CG 56) transited the Suez Canal Feb. 15 as they continue their return trip home.
However, detachments from Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 141 and Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 87, and VFA-15, remain in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and will rejoin the carrier and its associated air wing, Carrier Air Wing(CVW) 8, later this month.
The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Carrier Strike Group is scheduled to relieve Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG), which has been operating in theater since early October.
"I'm very pleased with the performance of the entire strike group team," said Rear Adm. James A. Winnefeld, commander, Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group. "Our Sailors have been able to achieve impressive effects in virtually every corner of the 5th Fleet maritime environment, in the skies over Iraq supporting U.S. and coalition troops, and through their exceptional conduct while on liberty ashore."
While in theater, Theodore Roosevelt and CVW-8 successfully launched both carrier and land-based flight operations in support of OIF and MSO.
"Ingenuity and determination can go a long way," said Capt. William G. Sizemore II, commander, Carrier Air Wing 8. "We increased our effectiveness by setting up both permanent and temporary detachments, and we managed to find ways to expand our support without taking away from our mission capabilities."
VAQ-141 split the operations of its EA-6B Prowlers between TR and its detachment at an air base inside Iraq, allowing for readily available in-country air support.
Sea Control Squadron (VS) 24 successfully divided the use of its S-3B Vikings to support both CVW-8 and British ground forces of Multi-National Division-Southeast (MND-SE) in southeast Iraq. Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 3 provided support for troops operating in MND-SE, as well.
F-14 Tomcats assigned to Fighter Squadrons (VF) 213 and 31, as well as F/A-18s assigned to VFA-15 and 87, were also key factors to the mission's success with their reconnaissance, surveillance, and close air support missions.
During TR's Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates, port visit during the Thanksgiving holiday week, VFA-15 and 87 personnel continued to provide air support from an air base in Iraq.
"The team effort of TR and CVW-8 during the past four months has been vital not only to our success, but also to the success of the ground forces in Iraq," said Capt. J.R. Haley, Theodore Roosevelt commanding officer.
"Our efforts have saved the lives of the Marines and Soldiers on the ground. We made a difference to them - and to the people they are fighting for."
Theodore Roosevelt and CVW-8 launched more than 5,500 sorties, totaling more than 21,000 flight hours in support of OIF and MSO while in theater.
San Jacinto, USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) and USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79) experienced much success in their efforts to deny terrorist organizations use of the maritime environment to support their operations while keeping waters safe for merchant traffic and fishing vessels.
Boarding teams from each ship conducted Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) operations and monitored vessels to ensure the legitimate use of international waters in the Gulf, while at the same time building relations with local mariners by providing first aid, mechanical assistance and even food from time to time.
All three ships also conducted operations in the Persian Gulf where they provided protection in Iraqi territorial waters and for their two major oil terminals - Al Basrah and Khawr Al Amaya. Both terminals combined generate 85 percent of Iraq's gross national product.
The efforts of Oscar Austin, Donald Cook and San Jacinto have been effective and demonstrate TRCSG's team effort in the Arabian Gulf region, both on land and at sea.
"The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group played a key role in one of the monumental moments in our country's history," said Vice Adm. Patrick Walsh, commander, U.S. 5th Fleet. "Their responsibility, reach, and influence will have lasting effects on future generations.
"There is only one thing tougher than being out here, and that is not being here, and saying no to the chance to make a contribution to this important, critical mission," he added. "The Sailors of Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group said yes to that chance, made a difference, and should be proud of what they've accomplished."
For related news, visit the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cusnc/.