U.S. Carrier Group Ends 7-month Tour

File The aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) transits the Gulf of Aden. The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group is returning to Naval Station Norfolk after supporting maritime security operations, strike operations
The aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) transits the Gulf of Aden. The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group is returning to Naval Station Norfolk after supporting maritime security operations, strike operations

By Joseph R. Fonseca
 The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group (GHWB CSG) transited through the Suez Canal marking the end of more than seven months of Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations (AOO), Oct. 27.

Commanded by Rear Adm. DeWolfe Miller, GHWB CSG comprises aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), Carrier Air Wing 8 (CVW 8), Destroyer Squadron 22 (CDS 22), guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58), guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun (DDG 103) and guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80).

GHWB CSG deployed Feb. 15 from homeports in Norfolk, Virginia, Mayport, Florida, and Whidbey Island, Washington, as part of a routine deployment of forces.

While conducting operations in the 5th Fleet AOO, GHWB CSG continuously displayed unique capabilities and flexibility, ranging from supporting Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan to conducting combat operations over Iraq and Syria in support of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), as well as working with coalition and local navies conducting MSO. In addition, GHWB CSG participated in multiple international training exercises.

"I am extremely proud of the men and women that are the life blood of our ships, squadrons and warfighting staffs throughout the GHWB CSG," said Miller. "Over the last eight months, these Sailors executed complex missions with precision, extraordinary skill and complete professionalism. We remain ready to respond to any and all challenges while operating in the C6F (Commander, 6th Fleet) AOO. I am also thankful for the continuous support we received from friends and family members and we all look forward to arriving home safely."

Capt. Andrew Loiselle, George H.W. Bush commanding officer, added his own remarks on the performance of the crew and strike group during their time in the 5th Fleet AOO.

"I couldn't be happier; I think the ship, air wing, staffs and other ships have done an outstanding job," said Loiselle. "We were very well trained for operations in the AOO. The teamwork across the entire Carrier Strike Group Two team was, and continues to be, spectacular."

Master Chief David Carter, George H.W. Bush command master chief, notes that he, too, is pleased with the performance of the entire GHWB team.

"I am very satisfied with what we've achieved being out here," said Carter. "The whole strike group has done such a great job at being a team and working together. We've done such a good job in integrating our air wing and staff that it seems like a seamless team. I do see shipmates hanging around with their air wing shipmates and that's exactly the dynamic I'm looking for. The whole team has really come together to adapt and be successful in diverse challenges."

GHWB CSG is on its second combat deployment. Throughout the early stage of this deployment, CVN 77 and CVW 8 provided bold, forward presence for Commander, 6th Fleet by setting the operational framework for the first carrier interaction with the Russian fleet in decades, with the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier strike force in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Additionally, within one 30-hour period, GHWB CSG orchestrated the launch of OEF combat sorties in support of the Afghan Democratic run-off elections, steamed west at best possible speed executing an inbound Strait of Hormuz transit, then launched armed sorties into Iraq to counter massive Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) advances across the Levant into Iraq.

CVN 77 and CVW 8 swiftly and decisively planned and executed National Command Authority crisis response tasking, influencing major combat operations in two theaters of war within the same day. Throughout the first three weeks of the Iraq crisis, GHWB CSG was the sole provider of combat airpower in the United States inventory. Once on station in the North Arabian Gulf, GHWB swiftly transitioned to 24/7 air operations, supporting thousands of U.S. citizens and military consolidating in Baghdad under the advance of ISIS forces.

While basing rights were secured ashore from coalition partners, GHWB alone flew armed close-air support and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaisance missions, which slowed the advance of ISIS extremists throughout northern and central Iraq. The GHWB CSG commenced the first air strikes defending American interests in Iraq, Aug. 8.

GHWB CSG participated in the first offensive strikes, Sept. 23, deep into Syrian territory engaging both ISIS and Khorasan Group targets. CVW 8 aircrew launching from GHWB's flight deck led sorties that included aircraft from five Arab partner nations destroying multiple ISIS targets including ISIS fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance center, supply trucks and armed vehicles.

The strike group also launched 47 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles from USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) and USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51). GHWB CSG conducted their final offensive operations Oct. 18 as they were relieved by the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group (CVN CSG). The CVN CSG picked up where GHWB CSG left off and continues combat operations throughout Iraq and Syria.

While in 6th Fleet, the GHWB CSG's presence will strengthen regional maritime partnerships by conducting MSO and making routine port visits. Port visits are used to strengthen the Navy's relationship with partner nations and help foster a better understanding of the maritime environment as a whole. The GHWB CSG ships and squadrons are scheduled to return home in November.


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