NORFOLK (NNS) -- USS George Washington (CVN 73) returned to Naval Station Norfolk May 24 following a seven-week deployment to the Caribbean in support of "Partnership of the Americas."
"Partnership of the Americas" featured exercises and operations with Caribbean and Latin American countries, as well as goodwill port visits throughout the region. The U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM)-sponsored deployment was designed to enhance maritime security and strengthen ties with partner nations.
During "Partnership of the Americas," GW's crew conducted unit-level training, exercises and operations with militaries of other countries in the Caribbean Sea, focusing on preventing narco-terrorism and human trafficking, and providing humanitarian relief.
"The deployment was an overwhelming success for everyone involved," said Capt. Garry White, GW's commanding officer. "We accomplished all the objectives of the "Partnership of the Americas" surge deployment and since we were at sea, the GW Team accomplished much-needed training. We also established positive relationships and improved our interoperability with numerous countries in the region through underway embarks, as well as interaction with the local populace and community relations projects during our port visits."
GW left Norfolk April 4 for the deployment and during the transit to the Caribbean Sea, completed numerous unit-level training exercises.
Pilots from the embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 completed carrier qualifications and live ordnance training at the Pinecastle Bombing Range. GW also completed the second and third phases of its Tailored Ship's Training Availability (TSTA).
GW's first bilateral exchange was a visit by a group of Brazilian pilots who were hosted by CVW-17. During their visit, the officers were shown how the U.S. Navy conducts aircraft carrier operations.
Throughout the deployment, GW hosted dignitaries, military leaders and media representatives from various countries in the region including Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Trinidad & Tobago, and Antigua.
"During more than 15 large group embarks by foreign distinguished guests and media, the crew consistently served as stellar ambassadors and were exceptionally effective at demonstrating our capabilities," said White. "These interactions were paramount to building strong ties with our partners in the region."
GW also conducted operations and exercises with foreign navies in the region. The biggest of these, CARTAGENEX, was a bilateral exercise with the Colombian navy and air force. It involved two ships from the Colombian navy, GW, aircraft from CVW-17 and the Colombian air force and two ships from the GW Carrier Strike Group (GWCSG) - USS Monterey (CG 61) and USS Underwood (FFG 36).
The two-day exercise involved an air defense exercise and numerous war fighting demonstrations by all the units involved. Military leaders from Colombia, including the commander of the Colombian navy, Adm. Mauricio Soto, embarked GW during the exercises to get a look at how the carrier strike group operates.
"Working with the Colombian navy was very advantageous for both parties," said Rear Adm. Joseph Kilkenny, the commander of the GWCSG. "Even after such a short bilateral interaction, we felt very comfortable operating with the Colombians. Their Navy is extremely professional and proficient. They are great sailors, and we are glad to have them as allies."
GW also made two goodwill port visits during the deployment to help forge positive relationships with countries in the region. During their visits to St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles and Antigua, GW Sailors volunteered more than 2,400 hours to community relations projects.
In a message released to the units involved in "Partnership of the Americas," the Commander of Naval Forces Southern Command, Rear Adm. James Stevenson, said the Sailors' interactions during the port visits "served to build important civilian-to-military ties through your impressive community relations projects. The positive impact of your efforts and the goodwill you fostered will be seen and remembered long after your departure."
The deployment to the Caribbean Sea was the first by an aircraft carrier in many years, and according to Kilkenny, GW took advantage of the opportunity during operations to share important information with many partner nations in the region, and the Sailors aboard all represented the ship, the Navy and the nation with pride in every interaction and exercise.
"The operations conducted in the Caribbean were invaluable for both navies," said Kilkenny. "We recognize that the best way to forge partnerships is through communications and operations. In order for us to respond to an international crisis, such as a natural disaster, as a multinational force, we need to work on our interoperability and let nations in the region know our capability and what we can provide if need be."
For related news, visit the USS George Washington (CVN 73) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.