Constellation Strike Group WESTPAC 99 Deployment
CVA / CV 64 Constellation
"Connie" / "America's Flag Ship"
After completing one of the most successful work-up schedules in Navy history, Constellation departed San Diego on June 18, 1999, beginning her 19th overseas deployment. The Battlegroup included USS Constellation (CV 64), Carrier Air Wing 2, Destroyer Squadron SEVEN (DESRON), USS Chosin (CG 65), USS Lake Erie (CG 70), USS Benfold (DDG 65), USS Kinkaid (DD 965), USS Sacramento (AOE 1), USS Olympia (SSN 717) and USS Sante Fe (SSN 763). Connie immediately put her war fighting skills to the test by conducting a Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX). This marked the first time ever that a carrier has conducted JTFEX at the beginning of a deployment. With increased tensions between North and South Korea, Connie then headed for the Korean theatre to closely monitor the situation and provide a calming influence. After port calls in Pusan, ROK; Yokosuka, Japan; Singapore; and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Connie entered the Arabian Gulf on August 28 and began flying combat air patrols over the Iraqi no-fly zones in support of Operation Southern Watch.
Every battle group ship contributed to the success of the mission in support of Operation Southern Watch (OSW) - from flying combat sorties to conducting Maritime Interception Operations (MIO). Battle group ships, under the command of Commodore Richard Arnold, Commander, Destroyer Squadron Seven, conducted numerous, highly-successful MIOs in which 122 merchant ships were boarded to ensure no illegal importing or exporting was taking place. During her 10-week stay in the 5th Fleet theater, Connie and CVW-2 flew 1,256 sorties and expended nearly 44 tons of ordnance during nine combat engagements against Iraqi ground and air targets. The USS John F. Kennedy Battle Group relieved the USS Constellation Battle Group of duties in the Arabian Gulf after 72 days of operating in the region. During Connie's stay in the Gulf, the battle group received numerous accolades from various prominent individuals such as William Cohen, Secretary of Defense; Adm. Archie Clemens, Commander in Chief, U. S. Pacific Fleet; Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni, Commander, U. S. Central Command; Vice Adm. Charles Moore, Commander, Fifth Fleet; and Vice Adm. Mike Bowman, Commander, Naval Air Forces Pacific. Connie left the Arabian Gulf for R&R with port visits in Fremantle/Perth and Sydney Australia. Connie recorded a rare deployment milestone of 10,000 aircraft "traps" just before returning to San Diego for a memorable holiday homecoming on 17 December 1999.
Constellation Battle Group commands returning home included Cruiser Destroyer Group One (San Diego); Destroyer Squadron Seven (San Diego); USS Constellation CV-64 (San Diego); USS Kinkaid DD-965 (San Diego); USS Benfold DDG-65 (San Diego); USS Chosin CG-65 (Pearl Harbor, Hawaii); USS Lake Erie CG-70; (Pearl Harbor); USS Santa Fe SSN-763 (Pearl Harbor); USS Olympia SSN-717 (Pearl Harbor); USS Sacramento AOE-1 (Bremerton, Wash.); USCGC Midgett WHEC-726 (Seattle, Wash.); HMCS Regina FFH-334 (Victoria, BC, Canada); Carrier Air Wing Two (Lemoore, Calif.); VFA-137 (Lemoore); VFA-151 (Lemoore); VMFA-323 (Miramar, Calif.); VF-2 (Oceana, Va.); VAQ-131 (Whidbey Island, Wash.); VAW-116 (Point Mugu, Calif.); VS-38 (San Diego); HS-2 (San Diego); VRC-30 Det III (San Diego).
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