George Washington Strike Group
GWSTRKGRU / GWCSG
George Washington Battle Group
CVN-73 George Washington
"Spirit of Freedom"
The US Navy announced in January 2014 that it would deploy the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to Japan in the summer of 2015 to replace USS George Washington. USS Ronald Reagan, commissioned in 2003, will be moved from San Diego to the Yokosuka Naval Base as part of the Pentagon's efforts to bolster combat readiness in the Pacific region where tensions have flared over a tiny Japanese-controlled island chain also claimed by China. The George Washington carrier will move to Norfolk, Virginia to complete a multi-year nuclear refueling and overhaul. Most of the crew of the George Washington will transfer over to USS Reagan, so there will be no mass movement of families overseas.
In late 2015 USS George Washington (CVN-73) was part of a historic three-carrier “hull swap” as the Navy shifted carrier homeports to accommodate the GW‘s refueling and complex overhaul [RCOH] at Newport News. The Navy maintained CVN capability in Japan with the arrival of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) at Yokosuka, and sustained carrier support on the West Coast when USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) made San Diego her new homeport. A mid-August 2015 “crew swap,” enabled two-thirds of the Yokosuka-based crew to crossover to the Reagan and remain in Japan.
Since commissioning, George Washington made three Mediterranean / Arabian Gulf deployments. During GW's maiden deployment the ship proudly served as the backdrop for the 50th anniversary of D-Day.
The U.S. Navy announced Dec. 2, 2005 that USS George Washington (CVN 73) will replace USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) as the forward-deployed aircraft carrier in the western Pacific and will arrive in Yokosuka, Japan, in 2008. The forward deployment of George Washington would not necessitate a change in the assigned air wing in Japan, nor in the composition of the air wing. Carrier Air Wing 5 will remain the forward-deployed air wing.
This rotation is part of the Navy's long-range effort to routinely replace older ships assigned to the Navy's forward-deployed naval forces with newer or more capable platforms. It is part of an ongoing effort to consider the nature of all forward deployed forces when looking at the unpredictable security environment in the western Pacific.
USS George Washington (CVN 73) Sailors gathered for a ceremony on the flight deck, 30 June 2006, to commemorate the nation's 230th, and the ship's 14th birthday. Capt. Kent Whalen, GW's executive officer, was on hand as Sailors showed their appreciation to America and reaffirmed their dedication to traditions established by our founding fathers in 1776. "Independence Day recognizes everyone, civilian and military alike, who has contributed to making the United States what it is today," said Chief Hull Technician (SW/AW) Jaymond Calmes, GW's History and Heritage Committee coordinator.
During the ceremony, Electrician's Mate 1st Class Michael McKinley read the account of the life and times of the ship's namesake, Gen. George Washington. "I'm here making sure everyone at home can sleep at night while I stand watch," said McKinley. "I'm here to make sure we can remain a free nation." "It's an honor to serve aboard this ship," said Chief Religious Programs Specialist (SW) Edward Snyder, master of ceremonies for the event. "This is a ship named after the first president of our country, and as I was standing there listening to everyone reading, I felt this ship is a part of American history." Later in the day, a cake-cutting ceremony was held on the mess decks for all hands to bring the event to a close.
The aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) with its crew of approximately 5,500 Sailors departed San Diego 21 August 2008, to begin its journey to Yokosuka, Japan to replace USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) as the United States' only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier. This was the first time GW gets underway with CTF 70, Carrier Air Wing 5 (CVW 5) and Destroyer Squadron 15 (DESRON 15) as GW had been pier side at Naval Air Station North Island, having just completed repairs resulting from a fire at sea that took place 22 May 2008. GW is the permanent flag ship for CTF 70 while GW is forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan. Task Force 70 is the Carrier Strike Group component of Battle Force Seventh Fleet. In the past, the task force had been centered on the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63), which headed to Bremerton, WA to decommission from Naval Service in 2009 after 48 years on active duty.
USS George Washington (CVN 73) made its historic arrival at Fleet Activities Yokosuka, 25 September 2008, as the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to be permanently forward deployed outside of the United States. GW's two nuclear reactors allows it to rapidly sail great distances without ever needing to refuel and adds extensive capacity in jet fuel for its air wing. GW also has the latest upgrades to an aircraft carrier's self defense systems by adding a Cooperative Engagement Capability.
Sailors aboard GW spent 142 days out to sea in 2016 qualifying to operate the F-35 Lightning II, conducting carrier qualifications for 526 pilots, completing various shipboard inspections, burials-at-sea, and a swim call. GW also became a patchwork quilt of Sailors, with approximately one-third of the crew coming from deployment with GW, one-third coming from deployment with USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) (TR), and the rest transferring from various commands. The logistics involved with crew swapping two carriers, let alone three, are grand, complicated and hard to estimate. As GW and TR Sailors began to bond as a single team, the crew continued to work to find more efficient methods to accomplish their mission.
At the end of 2015, GW Sailors and TR Sailors who were headed to George Washington were expecting the ship to begin RCOH maintenance in 2016. However the schedule changed, pushing RCOH back to 2017 and the crew went underway 11 times throughout the year. The most apparent accomplishment is the fact that the GW ran a year past when it was supposed to. The time spent out to sea gave many Sailors the chance to conduct underway training like the helmsman and master helmsman qualifications. Also, Sailors had more opportunities to earn warfare qualifications.
The crew was given a rare opportunity in August, when the winds, weather and waves came together to create the perfect environment for a swim call. A swim call is a day where Sailors can line up in the hangar bay and have the chance to jump from an aircraft elevator into the ocean and swim to the ship's stern dock. In October, GW held a family day cruise when more than 1,000 guests were invited to get underway with the ship to experience Navy life and an air show from the flight deck.
In October, just days later, GW was scheduled to go underway to conduct carrier qualifications when Hurricane Matthew headed toward the Caribbean islands. GW was called to get underway and in position to render aid to the affected countries in Matthew's wake. The crew offloaded all of the supplies for the carrier qualifications and loaded up the equipment necessary to support 17 helicopters and more than 200 pallets full of humanitarian aid/disaster relief (HA/DR) supplies overnight, as the strike group prepared to go out to sea indefinitely. The biggest thing was that quick turnaround for the Haiti relief. Seeing how fast GW got prepared to go out there indicates how ready we actually are, if anything did happen.
GW's readiness toward the Navy's mission was also exemplified through the advancement of its crew members. In 2016, GW advanced a total of 417 enlisted Sailors to the next pay grade from the Navy's advancement exams.
While this year has had ups and downs and schedule changes, GW was to start its Shipboard Consolidated Offload and Outfitting Plan (SCOOP) and move into the yards for a four to five year Refueling Complex Overhaul (RCOH). Many Sailors are waiting to see what that means for them and how it will affect them in the future. Most of the crew has been very much engaged in preparing for RCOH. They established 30,000 job control numbers, and they've been doing that on top of everyday operations.
After completing its final underway period of the year, the ship's 1MC loudspeaker sounded, "Moored, shift colors," as George Washington arrived home, Dec. 17. The command's Family Readiness Group (FRG) hosted a homecoming celebration on the pier to mark the occasion, providing coffee, cocoa, and a warm welcome back to homeport.
Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) prepared the ship for refueling complex overhaul (RCOH) maintenance scheduled for Aug. 4, 2017. George Washington was in the Shipboard Consolidated Offload and Outfitting Plan (SCOOP) phase, which requires gutting anything that is not hard-wired, plumbed-in or welded to frames to be moved off the ship. SCOOP began on Feb. 28 and as of day 19, the ship had already completed 63% of this phase. Some departments own more real estate than others," said Simonds. "For example, the air and supply departments have a lot more spaces that need to be SCOOPed. It may seem like they have a heavy work load, but they also have more personnel than other departments to get the job done. The ship is on track to dry-dock at Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS), a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries on Aug. 4, which will begin the planned 48-month RCOH maintenance period.
George Washington was supposed to finish its mid-life overhaul by the end of 2021, but the Navy estimates it will now wrap up in March of next year, more than a year-and-a-half late. In an update on the carrier’s status to USNI News, Naval Sea Systems Command said in 04 May 2022 that “the RCOH total production work is over 90 percent complete, with some propulsion plant work, catapult work, and combat systems testing remaining. In addition to the production work remaining, USS George Washington will require testing and certification of the entire ship, including the propulsion plants, flight deck equipment, and combat systems, prior to returning to service, as is required of all ships coming out of major availabilities.
"Contributing factors to the schedule delay include unplanned growth work, labor inefficiencies and vendor supply chain delays,” the statement continued. “The Navy has increased government oversight at the shipyard to preserve schedule and mitigate further schedule delays.” George Washington was the first carrier to enter the maintenance period after being stationed overseas. The Forward Deployed Naval Force – Japan (FDNF-J) carrier is on an annual maintenance schedule separate from the 36-month Optimized Fleet Response Plan for the U.S.-based carriers.
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