By Rear Adm. Michael Gilday
Commander, Carrier Strike Group Eight
The 5,000 Sailors of Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group are thrilled to be returning home to the Norfolk, Mayport and Whidbey Island areas Wednesday, finishing a four and a half month deployment. We have been operating forward in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility for most of the past year and I’d like to hit a few highlights.
When the Navy needed a carrier to operate forward for an extended period, there was no better team to call upon than USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), Carrier Air Wing 7 (CVW 7) and USS Hue City (CG 66). Flexible, agile and ready, we were deployed for 10 of the last 12 months and have been out to sea essentially for 14 of the last 16. We were underway for 233 days in 2012 and are now up to 133 days for 2013.
The strike group left the United States in June 2012 and expected to return in early 2013. But instead, we made a short port call at home in December for required maintenance and for some down time with family and friends over the holidays. It’s remarkable to think that Ike has been a commissioned warship for 36 years and only needed some routine flight deck maintenance to stay deployed for as long as she has. I am proud to call Ike Carrier Strike Group 8’s flagship and the Battenberg Cup recipient the finest ship in the Atlantic Fleet for 2012.
As any Sailor in this strike group will tell you, it’s not enough just to be on station filling a role for a combatant commander in title only. This team truly excelled in 5th Fleet, providing crucial support to our servicemen and women on the ground in Afghanistan. The 5 Star Team flew 2,200 combat sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom over these two deployments.
Furthermore, guided-missile cruiser Hue City, which returns to Mayport on Wednesday, patrolled the waters of the North Arabian Sea and Arabian Gulf ensuring security for the economic interests of all of our maritime partners.
One additional member of our strike group, which I’d like to highlight was the FGS Hamburg (F220) – one of Germany’s new Sachsen-class frigates. This 2013 deployment marked the first time a German ship accompanied a U.S. carrier strike group on a 5th Fleet deployment as a maritime partner, and the trial run was a complete success. Hamburg fulfilled every mission we asked of her, including filling in as Ike’s escort in the North Arabian Sea and also in coordinating the air space around Ike. I hope our work together paves the way for further German-U.S. interoperability.
Operating forward, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and into the Arabian Gulf, the Sailors of the Eisenhower Strike Group exemplified the professionalism, flexibility and combat readiness that are the hallmarks of our Navy. A second successful deployment would not have been possible without the inspirational teamwork on Ike and the rock-solid support from our families and friends back home. Our Sailors and their families are definitely America’s all stars.
We are preparing to enjoy some much-deserved down time as we reunite with family and friends, but I know the Sailors of Ike Strike Group will be ready when asked to answer the call next time. Happy 4th of July to you all, and especially to the men and women who have just returned from overseas! They continue to preserve America’s freedom and I am proud of each and every one of them.
Live coverage of the homecoming is scheduled to start 1 p.m. ET on July 3.
Thank the Sailors of Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group as they return to their families and friends! Leave a comment below.