By Rear Adm. Roy Kelley
Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic
I want to wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season. This is a very special time of year and I hope you are able to enjoy the holiday break and recharge from what has been an exciting year for naval aviation.
Seeing all that has been accomplished in 2017 illustrates to the world that our Navy continues to showcase durability and superiority. We wished fair winds and following seas to the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group as they deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) was awarded the Battle “E” in March for her superior performance and completed sea trials in late July, following an exceptionally executed planned incremental availability. The Navy commissioned our newest aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), which continues to surpass expectations each time she gets underway.
Our deploying air wings set operational records while bringing the fight to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Carrier Air Wings 3 and 8 flew a combined 13,247 sorties, delivered 3,110,000 pounds of ordnance, logged 64,268 flight hours and successfully completed 20,868 traps. These are truly staggering numbers that highlight the power and flexibility of naval aviation.
This year’s hurricane season tested our nation’s fortitude. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria devastated parts of the United States, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. These storms tested our ability to quickly respond to a humanitarian crisis. Within hours of receiving their orders, the Dusty Dogs of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 7 and the Dragon Whales of HSC-28 were ready to support relief efforts. Deployed to the front line of these disasters, they demonstrated the best of our humanity. In Texas alone, Navy aircrews completed 358 rescues, including 22 dogs and five cats. No matter where the storms hit, naval aviation performed superbly and served as a shining example of the Navy’s readiness and capability.
The success of our Navy has always stemmed from the valuable contributions of Sailors, civilians and contractors working together as a team. For all you have done to contribute to the successes of 2017, I want to say, “Thank you!” Our Navy family and mission depend on each and every one of you.
As we bring this year to a close, take time to enjoy this holiday season with your family and friends while reflecting on the many achievements you worked so hard to accomplish. Our great nation is safe and free because of your efforts and millions of Americans are grateful for your service and sacrifice. Happy holidays!