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USS Kitty Hawk Returns from Deployment

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS040525-04

Release Date: 5/25/2004 10:03:00 AM

By Journalist 3rd Class David Beyea, USS Kitty Hawk Public Affairs

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) returned May 24 to her permanently forward-deployed operating port of Yokosuka, Japan, for the first time since she began her Spring deployment Feb. 18.

The 43-year-old carrier returned with several of the ships that make up her strike group, including USS Vincennes (CG 49) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56).

During her three-month under way period, Kitty Hawk toured the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility, visiting and interacting with her neighbors, and demonstrating America's commitment to maintaining regional stability and good relationships. Throughout the under way period, extensive flight operations were conducted with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5.

Early in the under way period, before the ship, known affectionately as the "Battle Cat," visited any foreign ports, the crew received a visit from the Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Gordon R. England. England came aboard Feb. 26 to meet and praise some of America's forward-deployed ambassadors.

"We've gone from cannon balls to cruise missiles," said England, "but the most valuable part of the Navy has always been its people."

These "most valuable" naval personnel then got to prove themselves with missiles during a two-day missile exercise, called MISSILEX. During this exercise, CVW-5 trained in handling, loading and firing live ordnance.

"Countless man-hours went into making this a success. Everyone played a hand in making sure the aircraft were ready to fly, from ordnancemen building the bombs to the aviation technicians checking wires," said Lt. Cmdr. Desmond M. Connolly, CVW-5 operations officer.

Following the MISSILEX, the Kitty Hawk Strike Group had the opportunity to be ambassadors during a port visit to Hong Kong. On the first day of the Hong Kong port visit, the Battle Cat hosted a reception for approximately 800 military, government and civilian officials.

During the four-day visit, Sailors also spent time volunteering to help out charity organizations, such as the Salvation Army, Ronald McDonald House and Cross Roads International.

"I get satisfaction knowing that I did something for a third party - not for myself, not for the Navy, but for people I don't even know," said Electronics Technician 3rd Class (SW) Jonathan Bailey of Kitty Hawk's maintenance department, and Hong Kong volunteer.

Approximately a week after leaving Hong Kong, the Battle Cat team pulled into Busan, Republic of Korea, for a five-day working port, where a reception was held for approximately 400 Republic of Korea (ROK) officials and other guests.

After leaving Busan, Kitty Hawk participated in the annual Foal Eagle exercise. In Foal Eagle, the Kitty Hawk Strike Group joined forces with the Air Force, Marines and the ROK to practice integration and operability in real life scenarios.

"Kitty Hawk, being the only aircraft carrier in theater, played a vital role with her strike capability," said Cmdr. Mark D. Lechner, Battle Forces 7th Fleet plans and exercise officer, speaking of Kitty Hawk and CVW-5's exercise participation.

The Battle Cat's next port of call took place in Singapore for a four-day visit. While there, Battle Cat Sailors not only helped handicapped adults during a community service project, they also hosted a reception for approximately 500 guests. Sailors also enjoyed some competition with the locals.

Kitty Hawk Strike Group teams and local Singapore teams played soccer, basketball and softball.

"Attendance at the games was higher than expected. Sailors came to cheer on their shipmates or to just watch the games," said Fire Controlman 1st Class(SW) Sam Sheeley, morale, welfare and recreation's leading petty officer.

Next on Kitty Hawk's "neighborhood tour" was Fremantle, Australia. Once again, the Battle Cat opened its doors and hosted a reception for approximately 800 Australians. Sailors then spent the five-day visit enjoying Australian hospitality and participating in community service projects to help the Australian environment.

The port visit coincided with Australian/New Zealand Army Air Corps Day, a major Australian national holiday. This led to numerous other activities for Sailors, including parades, wreath laying ceremonies and receptions throughout the visit.

Following the visit to Australia, the Battle Cat headed north and crossed the equator for a second time, performing an ages-old Navy tradition, Wog Day, the crossing-the-line ceremony.

The achievement is celebrated by naval forces, and some civilian vessels, around the world, commemorating the ship's crossing of the equator.

Sailors who have never crossed the line before, called "pollywogs," go through a series of events to prove that they are worthy of becoming "shellbacks," or those who have "crossed the line."

Kitty Hawk Sailors received instruction prior to the start of events that the theme of the day was that of fun, combined with the three Ts - training, teamwork and transformation, according to Kitty Hawk's Command Master Chief (AW), Cliff Yager.

About 2,500 Sailors made the transition to being shellbacks aboard Kitty Hawk, "and they should be proud of having been part of a centuries-old Navy tradition," said Master Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (AW) Tony Stoecker of air department.

With a ship full of shellbacks, the Kitty Hawk Strike Group went on to conduct War-At-Sea Exercises (WASEX).

"A WASEX simulates a long range defensive strike against a hostile surface combatant," said Lt. j.g. Michael Barksdale, assistant plans officer for Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 embarked aboard Kitty Hawk. "The air wing launches aircraft to investigate a possible hostile target. When the target is located, we launch a strike package to counter the specific threat."

Having used approximately 12 million gallons of fuel and having traveled more than 25,000 nautical miles, Kitty Hawk returned to Yokosuka. One of the preparations was to say goodbye to the air wing.

Throughout the three-month under way period, CVW-5 negotiated the flight deck and surrounding air space, conducting a series of flight operations. These included initial carrier qualifications, cyclic flight operations, strike operations, to include the use of live ordnance, and surge operations, with extensive sorties day and night.

After 5,187 catapult launches to the thirsty tune of nearly 7 million gallons of JP-5 jet fuel, CVW-5 returned home to Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, where they continue training and operating as America's largest and only permanently forward-deployed air wing.

With CVW-5 returning to Atsugi, Kitty Hawk returned to Yokosuka, with another successful spring underway period behind her.

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