MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 stopped at Naval Station Mayport to drop off members of Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron (HS) 5 and to pick up family members for their transit back to Naval Station Norfolk July 28.
The ship is returning to its homeport following completion of a successful five-month deployment.
"This is my seventh deployment and first with HS-5" said Cmdr. Mark Leavitt. "This is my first time on Eisenhower. The Sailors kept me very busy; it was a great experience."
Ike and the other units assigned to Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 8 deployed to the 5th and 6th Fleet Areas of Responsibility in support Operation Enduring Freedom
conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation operations.
"I think everyone had a fulfilling deployment; it was challenging at times and difficult to operate where we were at in the North Arabian Sea," said Leavitt. "The temperature was extremely hot; the humidity was extremely high, and the Sailors on the flight deck routinely were in a heat index over 115 and 120 degrees. But they worked very hard and should be very proud of what they did."
While deployed, CVW 7 provided combat support to coalition troops on the ground in Afghanistan flying, more than 4,700 combat sorties and 17,000 combat flight hours.
"I couldn't be more proud of the nearly 6,000 men and women of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group," said Rear Adm. Kurt W. Tidd, commander, Carrier Strike CSG 8. "Our Sailors have upheld the timeless traditions of our Navy when called upon. They delivered, providing persistent U.S. naval power, in perfect partnership with our joint and allied partners, delivering security and stability in uniquely important and remarkable parts of the world."
USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) and USS Halyburton (FFG 40) also assigned to CSG 8, assisted in the rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips, the master of U.S. Motor Vessel Maersk-Alabama, following a pirate attack on board.
"I'm getting all choked up; I am very proud of my son and all the guys on the trip. We just don't know the price of freedom," said Ralph Balcom, father of Chief Warrant Officer Michael Balcom.
Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group participates in military operations around the world in support of building partnerships with other navies and countries in an effort to maintain freedom of the seas.
For more news from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn69/.