GW Carrier Strike Group Completes Inaugural Summer Deployment, Returns to Yokosuka
Story Number: NNS090903-04
Release Date: 9/3/2009 8:15:00 AM
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Charles Oki, USS George Washington Public Affairs
YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- The George Washington Carrier Strike Group (GW CSG) completed their inaugural summer deployment Sept. 3, returning to their forward-deployed home at Fleet Activities Yokosuka.
The GW CSG, commanded by Rear Adm. Kevin M. Donegan, is comprised of CVW-5, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, and the guided-missile cruisers USS Shiloh (CG 67) and USS Cowpens (CG 63).
USS George Washington (CVN 73), flagship of the carrier strike group and the Navy's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier, departed Yokosuka June 10, traveling 4,552 nautical miles on its inaugural summer deployment since replacing the decommissioned aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk last year. GW was accompanied into port by the guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) and the guided missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and USS McCampbell (DDG 85). Most of Carrier Airwing Five (CVW 5) flew off from GW August 2, returning to Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan.
A central focus of the deployment was promoting security and stability throughout the Western Pacific Ocean by enhancing interoperability and building partnerships with Western Pacific nations.
"Throughout our Western Pacific deployment, we were able to work with a large number of allies and global maritime partners, which enhances our joint capacity to preserve security and stability," said GW's Commanding Officer, Captain David A. Lausman. "Being on our first summer deployment in the region, it was important to get out and meet our regional maritime partners for the first time, and show our readiness and willingness to partner with them now and in the future.
"We continue to look forward to all future underway periods where we can nurture growth and understanding with all of our global maritime partners throughout the 7th Fleet area of responsibility," continued Lausman.
During the deployment, the GW CSG participated in Talisman Saber 2009 (TS 09) July 13-25. TS09 is a biennial exercise hosted by the Australian Defense Force focused on enhancing combat readiness, building and fostering relationships between nations, and preparing responses to possible crises and conflicts. Aviators from embarked CVW 5 made simulated strikes on targets in central and northern Australia during TS09, and Sailors from GW's Air Department were able to launch and recover aircraft in an increased-tempo flight operations environment.
Another way GW Sailors fostered partnerships and interoperability was through the three port visits made by the aircraft carrier: in Perth, Australia; Singapore; and Manila, Republic of the Philippines. During each visit, local citizens and military members toured the ship and interacted with Sailors.
During the Manila visit, the first by a U.S. aircraft carrier in more than 13 years, Sailors from CVW 5 and six different GW departments hosted their counterparts from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for tours of their spaces and demonstrations of some of their equipment.
"No one nation wants to go it alone," said GW Operations Officer Cmdr. Anthony Calandra. "It's just so much better if we work as a team, which is enhanced by our port visits, community service projects, and the exchange of knowledge."
The strike group's three port visits also provided an opportunity for Sailors to get out into the local communities to make a difference through volunteerism. According to GW Chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Tadeusz Gegotek, more than 1,000 Sailors worked on 41 different community service projects, devoting a total of 4,500 man-hours toward making a difference for their host cities.
"The best way to build a strong relationship is to interact with locals—but it's a small part of a much bigger picture," Gegotek said. "Whether interacting with local citizens while on liberty or through community service projects, both contribute toward the same goal—building lasting relationships with our host country."
Training was also a key element of the deployment. In order to maintain readiness in case of an at-sea emergency, Sailors completed 16 general quarters drills, during which Sailors battled simulated emergency scenarios with the ship in its highest state of readiness.
The high-tempo operations and training led to approximately 250 Sailors earning their Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist (ESWS) qualifications since June 10, with nearly 200 Sailors attaining their Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist (EAWS) qualification during that period.
"Training is essential to the mission. It is vital for Sailors to be able to react at a moments notice to keep the ship safe and ready at all times," said Lt. Cmdr. Todd Russell, GW's training officer. "Warfare qualifications are a big part of that, because more Sailors with warfare pins mean that the ship is better prepared for any situation that arises."
Throughout the course of the nearly three-month deployment, aviators flew approximately 4,500 sorties to attain and maintain the highest level of readiness in carrier operations, according to Commander CVW-5, Capt. Ross Myers. Aviators spent a total of 8,326 hours in the air sustaining their strike and anti-air warfare capabilities.
Sailors from GW's Supply Department worked around the clock providing essential services to the crew of more than 5,000. S-2 division (Food Services) prepared more than 1.3 million meals, providing the crew with a variety of options for their three meals a day. GW also conducted eight underway replenishments, receiving approximately 1,500 tons of spare parts, consumable supplies and food worth about $5 million.
Sailors from S-12 division (Postal Services) received, sorted and distributed more than 500,000 pounds of mail while underway.
"Email messages are great, but you can't email mom's cookies," said Postal Clerk 2nd Class (SW/AW) Kent Landis, leading petty officer of GW's Post Office. "You can't replace the satisfaction Sailors get when they receive a package from a loved one."
For many Sailors, GW's inaugural summer deployment from Yokosuka represented their first extended period aboard a Navy ship at sea.
Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Apprentice Christopher Jennings, a newly-reported Sailor from Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Department's IM-3 division, joined his shipmates in early August while the ship was pierside in Singapore. The native of Missoula, Mont., said he learned many lessons underway, even if it was only for a short time.
"Even though I've only been underway for a few weeks, I've managed to learn a lot," said Jennings. "It was a little intimidating at first when I arrived, but it's been a great experience so far. It's my first time out of Montana and I've already done, seen and learned so much that I'm really looking forward to seeing what's next."
GW is scheduled to head back to sea later this year for its second fall patrol.
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