SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Carrier Strike Group (CSG) returned home to the United States Sept. 15, following an eight-month deployment to the western Pacific.
More than 6,400 Sailors assigned to the supercarrier, her air wing, escort ships and staffs were greeted with a hero's welcome, having maintained America's commitment to peace, stability and theater security in the region throughout the strike group's extended deployment.
Aircrew from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 squadrons made the first of many homecomings, as they conducted a "flyoff" of more than 70 aircraft from the aircraft carrier Sept. 14. Sept. 15, Carl Vinson pulled into San Diego Bay and moored at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., to offload the remaining air wing personnel and equipment.
Carl Vinson will return to her homeport at Naval Station Bremerton, Wash., Sept. 19.
The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group (CSG) departed Southern California waters in mid-January and headed for training in the Hawaiian operating areas. Feb. 7. While operating off the coast of Hawaii, the strike group was ordered to the western Pacific to backfill the USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) Battle Group, which was deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).
Carl Vinson and her strike group met U.S. commitments in the Pacific Rim from as far north as the Korean Peninsula, to as far south as the Australian continent. Meanwhile, the Kitty Hawk Carrier Strike Group supported operations in the Middle East, returned to her homeport (Yokosuka, Japan), and underwent a scheduled maintenance period.
"The primary mission of this deployment was to maintain presence in the western Pacific," said Capt. Rick Wren, commanding officer of Carl Vinson. "That mission of presence, of course, demonstrated to all of our friends and allies our support for their livelihood. Our presence stabilized the region and reinforced our commitment to the welfare of the peoples of the nations across the western Pacific."
During the deployment, which covered 60,000 nautical miles - equivalent to two trips around the world -- the Carl Vinson CSG flew more than 10,000 sorties, offered indirect strike-planning support for OIF, and participated in several international naval exercises, including Foal Eagle, Tandem Thrust and Ulchi Focus Lens.
"By our theater security commitment, by our visits to various nations, and by our participation in multinational exercises, we have been a very visible reminder to nations throughout the world that we have been ready, and are ready, to assist at maintaining peace and security wherever required," said Rear Adm. Marty Chanik, Commander of Carrier Group 3 and the Carl Vinson CSG.
Unique among western Pacific cruises since the Gulf War, which have concentrated on the Middle East, the Vinson Strike Group's deployment reflects the classic Far East cruise of years past.
"Similar to a Med deployment 15-20 years ago, this cruise has been a tremendous blend of operational flying, exercise participation with our friends in the region, and a tremendous exposure of the crew to foreign ports of call," Wren said. "We hit every gem in the Western Pacific."
The Carl Vinson CSG's numerous port calls included Guam, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong. During nine port visits, strike group Sailors and Marines participated in 27 community relations projects, amounting to 2,280 hours of service to host nations.
The Carl Vinson CSG's deployment has been unique since the very beginning of its cycle. It was the first strike group to undergo a new, innovative Inter-Deployment Training Cycle (IDTC), which greatly compressed the training required for deployment.
"The Carl Vinson Strike Group has led the way in the new fleet readiness plan concept of strike group deployment," Chanik said. "We had, as part of our IDTC, achieved readiness levels early in the cycle; we were, therefore, employable earlier in the cycle, allowing the Navy to have more combat power available, if required. In our innovative IDTC, we showed what the possibilities were for attaining readiness in an earlier timeframe. And, we provided many of the lessons learned for the Navy to develop a fleet readiness plan. We verified that deployment cycles can change, and we will continue at this as we get back home and maintain our readiness to support potential contingencies."
From innovative and record-setting work-ups last fall, to a short-notice deployment in February and finally, to the unexpected news of an extended deployment - the Carl Vinson CSG's schedule has been unpredictable and often times unprecedented. The ability to overcome this uncertainty and become a force in the western Pacific came from the unity and teamwork of the many assets assigned to the CSG.
"The strength of this strike group comes from the individual ships and squadrons working together as a team," Chanik said. "From day one, this ability has made the strike group particularly effective at accomplishing all assigned tasks, despite the compressed and changing schedule, and able to do so without any drop in performance or capability."
The first Carl Vinson CSG ship to return home was USS Antietam (CG 54), which arrived Sep. 14 at Naval Station San Diego. Throughout the deployment, the Aegis cruiser's primary missions have been to provide area air defense for the carrier strike group and to direct air defense of U.S. naval units throughout the western Pacific. A multi-mission warship, Antietam also provided surface and sub-surface surveillance for the strike group and was prepared to conduct Tomahawk cruise missile strikes, if directed.
The strike group's fast combat support ship, USS Sacramento (AOE 1), will arrive in the Bremerton area Sept. 18. Sacramento's crew conducted 150 underway replenishment (UNREP) evolutions, delivering more than 26 million gallons of fuel to strike group ships and enabling them to maintain a constant presence in the region. The professionalism and attention to safety the "Golden Bear" team put forth during every UNREP was rewarded early in her deployment, when she was presented with the 2002 SECNAV Safety Award for the auxiliary-class ship category.
Returning to Everett, Wash., is the CSG's Sea Combat Commander, Destroyer Squadron (CDS) 9. This staff coordinated defense for the strike group against surface and sub-surface threats, as well as surveillance over thousands of square miles of ocean. They also maintained the readiness of assigned surface ships and embarked helicopter detachments to be ready to respond to missions throughout the western Pacific.
One CDS-9 ship, USS Ingraham (FFG 61), will also be returning to her homeport Sept. 19 in Everett. The guided-missile frigate provided escort support through some of the world's busiest waterways, ensuring safe transit. A proven undersea warfare platform, Ingraham also provided the CSG with keen surveillance for international submarines. The strike group's unofficial "ambassador" to Japan, the Ingraham crew made six calls to the "Land of the Rising Sun" ports of Yokosuka, Okinawa and Kure.
The Carl Vinson CSG's guided-missile destroyer, USS Lassen (DDG 82), is currently undergoing maintenance in Yokosuka, Japan. A return date for Lassen has not been publicly released yet. One of the Navy's newest destroyers, Lassen's multi-mission warfare capabilities allowed her to assume the role of alternate air warfare commander and provide air defense for the CSG. During the deployment, the ship made an historic visit to Vladivostok, Russia, and a favorite port call "down under" to Sydney, Australia.
Carl Vinson and her crew departed their homeport of Bremerton, Wash., Jan. 13. The Navy's third Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, the ship was commissioned March 13, 1982. Displacing more than 95,000 tons, Carl Vinson is home to nearly 5,000 Sailors and Marines, as well as approximately 75 combat and support aircraft. From its 4.5-acre flight deck, the carrier crew can quickly launch and recover the world's most modern military aircraft to operate with other elements of the U.S. Armed Forces, as well as those of allied nations.
For related news, visit the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn70.