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John F. Kennedy Strike Group MED 04 Deployment
CV 67 John F. Kennedy
"Big John"

In mid-to-late October 2002 the Kennedy ended its stand down and an extremely short maintenance period by beginning basic level training that included carrier qualifications. While conventional carriers have a shorter IDTC than nuclear carriers, the difference is only marginal. It is believed that the shortened period may be due to the additional time and work that was required at the end of 2001 and the beginning of 2002 to prepare the Kennedy to deploy. As additional work had been completed prior to deployment, less work may have been needed following the JFK's return.

USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) got underway 11 November 2003 at 11 a.m. for the first time in almost a year. During a five-day underway period, known as sea trials, the crew conducted rigorous operational tests on newly installed or improved systems. Sea trials also marks the first opportunity for the ship's crew - 45 percent of whom have never gotten underway with Kennedy - to practice important seamanship and navigational skills, preparing Big John for its next deployment. During the extended selected restricted availability, or ESRA, the crew worked with contractors painting, welding and renovating berthing compartments, offices and common areas. The unprecedented maintenance project marked the largest ever conducted outside a naval shipyard. Combined, contractors and crewmembers invested more than 600,000 man-hours recapitalizing the 35-year-old ship. They completed more than 10,000 jobs during the extended selected restricted availability.

Sailors from Carrier Air Wing 17 joined the John F. Kennedy Strike Group in January 2004. CVW-17 began their move aboard Big John, homeported in Mayport, Fla., right after the holidays. Kennedy, its crew and air wing support personnel got underway for the first time as a team Jan. 12.

Ships and aircraft of the John F. Kennedy Carrier Strike Group (CSG) began their Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) on Feb. 21, 2004. The exercise, scheduled to run through mid-March, used the Virginia Capes and Jacksonville, Fla. operating areas and training ranges along the East Coast and Gulf Coast of Florida. Additionally, the exercise involved complex strike group training events, naval surface fire support training and air-to-ground events.

The Carrier Strike Group used the following ranges for air-to-ground events during the exercise: Townsend, Ga.; Pinecastle, Fla.; Avon Park, Fla.; Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.; Piney Island, N.C.; and Dare County, N.C. The USS John F. Kennedy is the Navy's third carrier strike group to exercise using these ranges as part of the comprehensive Training Resource Strategy (TRS). Under this plan, ships and aircraft used existing east and gulf coast range training facilities and improved simulation technology now available to the fleet.

In implementing the TRS, Atlantic-based carrier strike groups train among existing training ranges and facilities throughout the region. Throughout COMPTUEX, the John F. Kennedy strike group demonstrated that the Navy is enhancing its training flexibility and effectiveness through geographical and technological diversification.

Commanded by Rear Adm. Donald K. Bullard, Commander, Carrier Group Six, the JFK CSG is comprised of the Mayport, Fla.-based ships USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67); the guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69); the guided missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80); the destroyer USS Spruance (DD 963); the fast combat support ship USS Seattle (AOE 3) -homeported in Earle, N.J.; and the attack submarine USS Toledo (SSN 769) - homeported in Groton, Conn.

The JFK CSG completed its month-long Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) March 17, 2004.

USS John F. Kennedy completed its final preparation for deployment April 21 during a massive weapons onload with two other Navy vessels. The carrier and its crew worked alongside USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and USS Seattle (AOE 3), transferring ordnance underway from the nuclear carrier and fast combat support ship to its flight decks. Seahawk SH-60 helicopters, six in all, performed a delicate dance at sea, as each took turns hovering above Enterprise's flight deck so Sailors could sling ordnance loads to them. For 14 hours, these helicopters moved ordnance from one carrier to the other. On Kennedy's starboard side, rigs were set up with Seattle, and loads were continuously passed to the carrier.

As the hours crept by, Sailors continued to hustle as though the day had just begun. The entire ammunition move was planned to take about 60 hours of non-stop labor with day- and night-check personnel working to move the entire load from the hangar bay to the magazines. However, the airlifts finished nine hours ahead of schedule, with the crew moving nearly 2,000 pallets.

JFK CSG, which completed its month-long Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) 17 March 2004 with a port visit to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., is the first strike group to fully start its training under the new Fleet Response Plan.

The JFK CSG deployed on June 7 2004, with embarked Carrier Air Wing 17, based in Norfolk, VA. The deployment represented the fruition of the Navy's Fleet Response Plan, the effectiveness of which the Navy demonstrated via the Summer Pulse '04 exercise. Summer Pulse '04 culminated in the deployment of seven aircraft carriers to five regions across the globe. For its part in the large-scale exercise, JFK, after the successful completion of its Combined Joint Task Force Exercise, steamed to the Persian Gulf as part of its regularly scheduled deployment.

Upon arrival in the Persian Gulf, Kennedy immediately assumed a wartime footing and ramped up its operational tempo to provide much needed support to coalition troops on the ground in Iraq. Warplanes from CVW-17 began flying sorties in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom July 10, 2004. By deployment's end, they flew 8,296 sorties for a total of 21,824 flight hours. Of those, 4,396 sorties and 11,607 of the flight hours were in direct support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During the course of operations in Iraq, 54,000 pounds of ordnance were dropped by the jets of CVW-17 squadrons, including F/A-18s Hornets from the Blueblasters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34, the Rampagers of VFA-83, the Sunliners of VFA-81 and F-14 Tomcats from the Jolly Rogers of Fighter Squadron (VF) 103. The Blueblasters of VFA-34 made history when, in late October, they dropped the Navy's first two 500-pound JDAMs - the newest weapons in the service's inventory - during combat operations over Iraq. Additionally, the first implementation of the Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared Camera Laser Pod, or ATFLIR, in F/A-18C Hornet squadrons, brought the Kennedy Strike Group to a new level of combat readiness.

August saw the ships of the Kennedy strike group play protector to two distressed civilian ships. Aug. 8, Seattle rescued the crew of a sinking ship after responding immediately to a distress call, originating from an Indonesia-flagged roll-on, roll-off ship, operating in the North Persian Gulf. The U.S. Navy Sailors successfully rescued four crew members by helicopter from the deck and eight more from a life raft in the water. Shortly after Seattle's efforts, Kennedy rescued six mariners from an Iranian cargo dhow Aug. 14 after learning that the vessel was taking on water. Kennedy dispatched two H-60 helicopters from HS-15 to the scene. The HS-15 Red Lions air crew rescued all crew members aboard the Iranian-flagged dhow.

Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet directed that the commanding officer of USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) be relieved 27 August 2004, as a result of a collision that occurred between a dhow and Kennedy during the night of July 22. Capt. John W. Miller, former commanding officer of USS Constellation (CV 64), will replace Capt. Stephen G. Squires in command. Squires will be temporarily reassigned to duties in the United States. The collision occurred as Kennedy was conducting flight operations in the Arabian Gulf. The decision to relieve the commanding officer followed review of an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the collision.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the ministers of defense from 18 coalition countries, made a stop on Kennedy Oct. 9 and took a whirlwind tour of the ship and participated in a video teleconference with a key military component in Baghdad. Rumsfeld then took time to reenlist 80 sailors, with reenlistment bonuses totaling more than $1.7 million.

USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Carrier Strike Group relieved on Nov. 20, 2004, the USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) Carrier Strike Group on station in the North Persian Gulf Nov. 21, 2004. The two carriers conducted ordnance and crew transfers prior to Kennedy's departure, and Truman's commencement of combat operations in the theatre. USS John F. Kennedy was scheduled to return to her homeport on Dec. 13, 2004.

Chronology

    13 Dec 2004 - Returns Home
    06 Dec 2004 - Atlantic Ocean
    01 Dec 2004 - Port visit, Tarragona, Spain
    29 Nov 2004 - Mediterranean Sea
    24 Nov 2004 - Red Sea
    22 Nov 2004 - North Arabian Sea
    20 Nov 2004 - Relieved by CVN-75 Truman
    07 Jul 2004 - Persian Gulf
    30 Jun 2004 - Mediterranean Sea
    28 Jun 2004 - Port vist @ Malta
    25 Jun 2004 - Mediterranean Sea
    18 Jun 2004 - Atlantic Ocean
    7 Jun 2004 - Deployed
    21 Apr 2004 - Weapons Onload
    16 Apr 2004 - Atlantic Ocean
    ?? Mar 2004 - Mayport
    21 Mar 2004 - Atlantic Ocean
    17 Mar 2004 - Surge Ready
    17 Mar 2004 - Port visit, Pensacola NAS
    06 Mar 2004 - Gulf of Mexico
    05 Mar 2004 - Atlantic Ocean
    02 Mar 2004 - port visit, Ft Lauderdale
    Feb - Mar 2004 - COMPTUEX
    19 Feb 2004 - Atlantic Ocean
    09 Feb 2004 - Mayport
    12 Jan 2004 - Atlantic Ocean
    22 Dec 2003 - Mayport
    05 Dec 2003 - Atlantic Ocean
    21 Nov 2003 - Mayport
    07 Nov 2003 - Atlantic Ocean



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