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Constellation Battle Group Deploys in Support of OEF

Navy Newsstand

Release Date: 11/03/2002

From 3rd Fleet Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- More than 8,000 Pacific Fleet Sailors commenced a six-month deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom when Naval forces of the USS Constellation (CV 64) Carrier Battle Group departed San Diego Nov. 2.

The Constellation Battle Group, based in San Diego, deployed with the following San Diego-based ships: guided-missile cruisers USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) and USS Valley Forge (CG 50); guided-missile destroyers USS Higgins (DDG 76) and USS Milius (DDG 69), and guided- missile frigate USS Thach (FFG 43). Other units include the fast attack submarine USS Columbia (SSN 771), based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and the fast combat support ship USS Rainier (AOE 7), based in Bremerton, Wash.

The crew of the San Diego-based destroyer USS Kinkaid (DD 965) will participate in the Navy's innovative Sea Swap program - they join the Constellation Battle Group, but their ship won't. In coming months, Kinkaid's crew will decommission their ship in San Diego and then fly overseas to swap out with the crew aboard the destroyer USS Fletcher (DD 992), currently deployed with the Abraham Lincoln Battle Group in the Arabian Gulf. Fletcher's crew will fly home, while their ship - now manned with Kinkaid's crew old crew - will join up with the recently arrived Constellation Battle group.

Sea Swap allows crews to spend more of their six-month deployment on station and less time in transit.

Another ship in the Constellation Battle Group, Milius, becomes the first guided-missile destroyer to deploy overseas under the Optimal Manning program.

Milius deploys with a crew of 233 enlisted Sailors, a 19 percent reduction in the original manning for that ship. The reduction in the ship's manning has been made possible by automating several systems and installing do-it-yourself services such as laundry.

The battle group's preparations for deployment included a Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) off the coast of Southern California Oct. 17-29.

The exercise tested the force's ability to respond to operational scenarios they might encounter during the deployment, which will be the 21st deployment for the 41-year old Constellation.

Constellation, a Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carrier, displaces nearly 88,000 tons and is home to more than 5,500 Sailors and other embarked personnel. It carries approximately 75 combat support and support aircraft. From its 4.5 acre flight deck, it can quickly launch and recover the world's most modern military aircraft that operate with other elements of the U.S. Armed Forces and allied nations.

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