Carrier Group Eight
Commander, Carrier Group Eight is also commander of the Theodore Roosevelt Battle Group (TRBATGRU). The duties of the Commander, Carrier group Eight include exercising command over assigned forces, and administering, training, inspecting, evaluating, and reporting on assigned ships and their embarked air wings in order to maintain these units at the highest attainable level of operational readiness. The staff developes and improves doctrine, tactics, and operating procedures for the combat employment of forces under his administrative and operational command. The Commander serves as the principal advisor to type commanders in all matters concerning the operational support and employment of assigned forces, and advises the Commander, Second Fleet regarding tactical employment of battle groups, strike warfare planning, integrated air support development, electronic warfare and anti-ship missile defense doctrine.
Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 98 was a US invitational multinational maritime exercise conducted in the Baltic Region scheduled 5-19 Jun 98. BALTOPS provided a basis for promoting mutual understanding and maritime platform interoperability between U.S. Navy, NATO, and non-NATO participants through a series of multilateral training exercises in air warfare, shallow water undersea warfare, electronic warfare, air defense, surface warfare, communications, fast patrol boat operations, seamanship, and mine warfare. COMCARGRU 8 was the officer in tactical command (OTC) and task force commander. Forces were organized into nine task groups for schedule of serials (SOS) execution.
On 27 February 1999, as more than 7,100 men and women of the Theodore Roosevelt Battle Broup (TRBATGRU) returned from Joint Task Force Exercise 99-1, RADM W. Winston Copeland, Jr. (Commander, Theodore Roosevelt Battle Group), postulated that the battle group was slated for a combat deployment within a month. USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) ("T.R."), Carrier Air Wing Eight (CVW-8) (composed of VF-41, VF-14, VFA-15, VFA-87, VAQ-141, VAW-124, VS-24, HS-3, and VRC-40), USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), USS Arctic (AOE 8), USS Halyburton (FFG 40), and USS Boise (SSN 764) departed Norfolk with orders to proceed to the Arabian Gulf, after a short stop in the Mediterranean, to relieve the Enterprise Battle Group.
USS Vella Gulf (CG 72), USS Ross (DDG 71), and USS Albuquerque (SSN 706) expected to see a typical Mediterranean deployment conducting multi-national exercises and several port visits. USS Peterson (DD 969) was ready to join standing naval forces Mediterranean ships as one of seven units from NATO nations patrolling the Mediterranean. USS Ramage (DDG 61) and USS Elrod (FFG 55) knew that they would deploy approximately two months later and proceed to the Arabian Gulf to conduct maritime interception operations in support of United Nations sanctions against Iraq. As it turned out, none of this would unfold as planned.
Hours before TRBATGRU sailed, the crisis in Kosovo erupted. Americans and Europeans were determined that the people of Kosovo would not continue to be persecuted by the Serbians. It was time for swift and decisive action, and TRBATGRU was ready. The first order of business for T.R. was to bring aboard CVW-8's 71 tactical and support aircraft, and after only two and a half days, the fully qualified TR/CVW-8 team headed for the Mediterranean at 30+ knots.
Vella Gulf and Ross, with Commander Destroyer Squadron 28 (CDS-28), were directed to proceed across the Atlantic at maximum speed. They were needed in the Adriatic Sea as soon as possible. Arctic's ability to sustain over 28 knots in heavy seas was impressive. By refueling Ross and Vella Gulf mid-Atlantic, Arctic made it possible for both TLAM (tomahawk land attack missile) shooters to arrive on station quickly and ready to fight. After eight days of steaming in excess of 28 knots, Ross and Vella Gulf were on station in the Adriatic, and within hours of arrival the accuracy of their tomahawk cruise missiles were felt by the Serbians.
TRBATGRU had assumed the watch. During the next 65 days and nights, CVW-8 aircraft would fly more than 3,400 combat missions and log in excess of 12,000 flight hours delivering 800 tons of ordnance on military targets throughout the Federal Republic Of Yugoslavia. Leyte Gulf, Vella Gulf, Ross, and Albuquerque would contribute 93 painfully accurate tomahawk missiles to the effort. Boise, Peterson, Ramage, and Elrod would soon arrive on station and complete the full TRBATGRU team. After 65 days of intense combat operations, the Serbians decided that they had seen enough of TRBATGRU and signed the military technical agreement on June 9, ending the armed conflict.
Leyte Gulf, Vella Gulf, and Ross shouldered the complex job of coordinating the disposition and force protection of all afloat NATO forces in the Adriatic Sea. During 65 days of intense combat operations not a single ship, aircraft, submarine, nor human life was lost in TRBATGRU. From May to August, Halyburton conducted maritime interception operations in the Arabian Gulf. Halyburton's specially-trained boarding team was responsible for inspecting merchant vessels transporting cargo into Iraq. While aboard a vessel, the boarding team checked every space, void, tank, and container for prohibited cargo before they were allowed to pass.
During the summer months, the Arabian Gulf was a difficult area to conduct ship inspections, since the extreme temperatures easily reached 130 degrees inside the huge container ships. However, the Halyburton team remained vigilant and carried out her mission. In addition to Theodore Roosevelt and Air Wing Eight, Leyte Gulf and the combat logistics ship Arctic were on another high speed transit, this time to help other forces in Operation Southern Watch.
Operation Southern Watch (OSW) continues to ensure military aircraft from Iraq do not fly in areas where they have traditionally been used to oppress the local population, or to threaten their neighbors, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. T.R. and CVW-8 were crucial to this effort as they more than doubled the tactical aircraft available to conduct this important, region stabilizing mission.
Less than four days after relieving the Kitty Hawk Battle Group, CVW-8 aircraft were threatened by Iraqi anti-aircraft-artillery positions. The combat-tested veterans of CVW-8 responded with swift, decisive, and deadly accurate strikes. This action marks the first time in recent history that combat strikes from the same aircraft carrier have taken place in two different theaters of operations during the same deployment.
In early September 1999, after a successful turnover of OSW duties to the Constellation Battle Group, T.R., CVW-8, Leyte Gulf, Halyburton and Arctic rejoined the rest of the TRBATGRU in the Mediterranean. On 24 September 1999, T.R., CVW-8, Leyte Gulf, Vella Gulf, Arctic, Ross, Halyburton, and Albuquerque returned to their respective homeports. Peterson, Boise, Ramage, and Elrod followed, once relieved by the John F. Kennedy Battle Group.
Rear Adm. Victorino G. Mercado assumed command of Carrier Strike Group 8 [CSG-8] in June 2014. He led the strike group when it shifted flagships from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) to USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) to support fleet readiness and operational requirements. Following the shift, he successfully guided the strike group's ships and aircraft through an intensive maintenance and modernization availability and basic training, laying the foundation for integrated strike group operations.
Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 8 held a change of command ceremony at Norfolk Naval Station, 17 April 2015. Rear Adm. Victorino G. Mercado was relieved by Rear Adm. Bret C. Batchelder as commander, Carrier Strike Group 8. CSG-8's subordinate commands include Truman, Carrier Air Wing 7, the guided-missile cruisers USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) and USS Hue City (CG 66), as well as ships assigned to Destroyer Squadron 28; the guided-missile destroyers USS Gravely (DDG 107), USS Mitscher (DDG 57), USS Ramage (DDG 61), USS Gonzalez (DDG 66), USS Bulkeley (DDG 84), USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) and USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109).
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