Enterprise Strike Group MED 03 Deployment
"Big E" / "Ready on Arrival"
On January 7, 2002 ENTERPRISE entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a scheduled one-year EDSRA. On Aug. 21, 2002 Enterprise moved out of dry dock and got water under its keel for the first time since January 2002. Enterprise's next major phase in the EDSRA included getting all the ship's services back online, resurfacing the flight deck and getting the propulsion plants up and running. In January 2003 the Enterprise completed the EDSRA and began conducting sea trials. In February 2003, the ship conducted carrier qualifications off the East Coast of the United States.
In April 2003 the Enterprise Strike Group participated in Multi-National Maritime Exercise 03-1. The exercise began on April 07, 2003 and ended on April 11, 2003. The carrier was back in Norfolk by April 18, 2003.
The Enterprise departed Norfolk on May 7, 2003 and returned to the port on May 27, 2003.
In June 2003 the Enterprise joined the Argentinean destroyer ARA Sarandi (D 13) for joint training exercise Solid Step. On June 18, 2003 the Enterprise departed Norfolk for what had been thought to be a TSTA period, but information regarding Solid Step indicates that this might have been COMPTUEX. Unfortunately, information coming out of 2nd Fleet has been notoriously bad and it is not clear exactly at what stage in its IDTC the Enterprise was when it departed in June. The Enterprise returned to Norfolk on July 02, 2003.
There is insufficient information as to what activities the Enterprise took part in during the month of August. There are some indications that the Enterprise conducted a Battle Group Inport Exercise. Every indication was that the Enterprise was preparing for a major departure from Norfolk that would involve the completion of the IDTC and deployment.
A story in the Navy Times on August 26, 2003 indicated the Enterprise was to get underway on August 28, 2003 and would work to complete its intermediate and advanced phases of the IDTC. Curiously, the article indicates that COMPTUEX would begin on September 10, 2003 and that following the completion of the IDTC the Enterprise Strike Group would deploy without returning to Norfolk. There has not been any indication that following the completion of COMPTUEX that the Enterprise would begin a JTFEX.
The composition of the strike group has also been an issue of some confusion. The Enterprise's official website indicates that the strike group will be comprised of the USS Gettysburg, the Philippine Sea, the Cole, Gonzalez, McFaul, Stout, Thorn, Nicholas, and Detroit. However, various news reports both from media sources and the Navy indicate that only the Detroit, Philippine Sea and Gettysburg are part of the strike group (as well as a destroyer from Argentina). To further confuse the matter, photo's from the Navy in late September indicate that the some of the original ships are in fact part of the strike group and are taking part in pre-deployment work-ups.
As of mid-November 2003 the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Carrier Strike Group (CSG), the Navy's only deployed CSG, was taking charge of a range of military operations covering a geographical region larger than the United States from its station in the North Arabian Sea. If one were to overlay a map of the United States on the Arabian Gulf and Northern Indian Ocean, and put Enterprise over Norfolk, one would see that Enterprise has flown strike, reconnaissance, and electronic attack missions to the very northern tip of Maine, corresponding to northeastern Afghanistan; operated and provide spec ops support near New Mexico, corresponding to the Horn of Africa; and directed complex maritime missions of leadership interdiction and counter-smuggling as far away as North Dakota, corresponding to the Northern Arabian Gulf. Elements of the CSG were running anti-smuggling operations in the North Arabian Gulf, while in the Horn of Africa, aircraft from Enterprise's embarked helicopter squadron, Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (HS) 11, were flying missions in support of the multi-national coalition hunting terrorists there. From the aircraft carrier, the embarked squadrons of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1 were providing air support for troops fighting Al-Qaida and Taliban forces in the high mountains of Afghanistan. To aid the troops, E-2C Hawkeyes from the "Screwtops" of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123 conducted missions between Enterprise and Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. In its three weeks on station in the 5th Fleet, Enterprise CSG had been actively engaged in both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).
That kind of multi-tasking demands increased flexibility from the crew. Nov. 3, with less than 24-hours notice, Enterprise got underway from the port of Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates. Even though the 5,600 Sailors still had two more days of liberty scheduled there, the ship's leadership recalled the crew, and steamed through the Strait of Hormuz out to the Northern Arabian Sea in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Before Enterprise was ordered to depart Jebel Ali, they were fully expecting to head back up to continue supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, and instead they got called to help with Operation Enduring Freedom. Embarked in Enterprise, the staff of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 18 coordinates many of the CSG's missions throughout the Middle East. In the 5th Fleet, the staff took on responsibility as the Northern Arabian Sea and Northern Arabian Gulf Sea Combat Commander. DESRON 18 operations officer inherited 19 ships.
These ships include the Coastal Patrol ships USS Firebolt (PC 10) and USS Chinook (PC 9), and some Coast Guard cutters, performing maritime security missions in the Northern Arabian Gulf, along with coalition forces patrolling the Strait of Hormuz. Many of these missions involve clamping down on oil smuggling from Iraq and searching for terrorists seeking to travel covertly by sea. In the Horn of Africa, two SH-60H Seahawk helicopters from HS-11, based out of Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., were operating from the flight deck of the amphibious transport dock USS Ogden (LPD 5) in coordination with Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa in direct support of OEF.
USS Enterprise entered the waters of the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) Feb. 5, 2004 after transiting the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea following almost four months of operations in the Middle East.
29 Feb 2004 - Returns to Norfolk
20 Feb 2004 - Atlantic Ocean
12 Feb 2004 - Mediterranean Sea
09 Feb 2004 - port visit, Naples
08 Feb 2004 - Mediterranean Sea
02 Feb 2004 - Red Sea
30 Jan 2004 - North Arabian Sea
17 Nov 2003 - Persian Gulf
20 Oct 2003 - North Arabian Sea
15 Oct 2003 - Red Sea
02 Oct 2003 - Deploy
10 Sep 2003 - Begins COMPTUEX
30 Aug 2003 - TSTA
29 Aug 2003 - Departs Norfolk
01 Aug 2003 - Begins BGIE IV?
02 Jul 2003 - Returns to Norfolk
18 Jun 2003 - Departs Norfolk for Solid Step
27 May 2003 - Return to Norfolk
07 May 2003 - Sea Trials / TSTA?
18 Apr 2003 - In Norfolk
11 Apr 2003 - Complete MNME 03-1
07 Apr 2003 - Begin MNME 03-1
Feb 2003 - Carrier qualifications
Jan 2003 - Sea Trials
Jan 2003 - Completes EDSRA
21 Aug 2002 - Leaves Dry Dock
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