Operation Enduring Freedom - Deployments
Navy and Marine Corps
The Naval assets deployed to the region were significant and included as many as three Carrier Battle Groups with their strike aircraft.
By 16 September 2001, two carriers were in the Southwest and South Asia region, including the USS Enterprise (CVN 65), which was exiting the Arabian Sea and the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), which had relieved the Enterprise.
The Enterprise Battle Group was comprised of eight ships and submarines. The USS Enterpise was joined by the USS Philippine Sea (CG 58), the USS McFaul (DDG 74), the USS Nicholson (DD 982), the USS John Ericsson (T-AO 194), and the USS Arctic (AOE-8). The Enterprise Battle Group was also accompanied by two submarines, the USS Jacksonville (SSN 699) and the USS Providence (SSN 719). Five other vessels that had previously been with the Enterprise Battle Group had returned to their home ports prior to the initiation of the strikes against Afghanistan. Those vessels were the USS Gettysburg (CG 64), the USS Stout (DDG 55), the USS Gonzalez (DDG 66), the USS Thorn (DD 988), and the USS Nicholas (FFG 47). The Enterprise departed the North Arabian Sea in early November and subsequently returned to port.
The Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) attached to the Enterprise Battle Group returned to port in mid-October after having been replaced by the Carl Vinson ARG. The ARG was comprised of 3 ships the USS Kearsage (LHD 3), the USS Ponce (LPD 15), and the USS Tortuga (LSD 46). The Marine component of the ARG was the 24th MEU.
The Carl Vinson Battle Group was accompanied by nine other ships and submarines including the USS Antietam (CG 54), the USS Princeton (CG 59), the USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53), the USS O'Kane (DDG 77), the USS O'Brien (DD 975), the USS Sacremento (AOE 1), the USS Niagra Falls (T-AFS 3), and two submraines the USS Key West (SSN 722) and the USS Olympia (SSN 717). The USS Ingraham (FFG 61) was also reported to be with the Vinson Battle Group, but this had not been confirmed by the Navy. Vinson was to be relieved in early December 2001 by the San Diego-based John C. Stennis, which left port in early November 2001.
The ARG attached to the Vinson Battle Group was initially located in the Arabaian Sea. The ships in this ARG were the USS Peleliu (LHA 5), the USS Dubuque (LPD 8), and the USS Comstock (LSD 45). The 15th MEU was a part of this Group. It was, at the time, operating in Pakistan, providing security at airfields that US forces were operating from.
The Navy deployed the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Battle Group to the Mediterranean, and "to points East" on 13 September 2001, which included a flotilla that comprises the USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), the USS Vella Gulf (CG 72),the USS Ramage (DDG 61), the USS Ross (DDG 71), the USS Peterson (DD 969), the USS Hayler (DD 997), the USS Elrod (FFG 55), the USS Carr (FFG 52), the USS Detroit (AOE 4), and two submarines the USS Springfield (SSN 761) and the USS Hartford (SSN 768). The Roosevelt Carrier Battle Group transited the Suez Canal on 13 October 2001 and arrived in the Arabian Sea on 15 October 2001.
The Roosevelt Carrier Battle Group was joined during the weekend of 17 November 2001 by an amphibious ready group that deployed 20 September 2001. This consisted of the USS Bataan (LHD 5), USS Shreveport (LPD 12), and the USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41). The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) was assigned to this group. In all, there are more than 15,000 sailors and marines on the ships. The 26th MEU did not initially arrive in the Arabian Sea with the Roosevelt and had instead been participating in the Bright Star war games with Egypt.
The USS Kitty Hawk Battle Group participated in Enduring Freedom, though it did not have its full Carrier Air Wing and carried an unspecified number of helicopters that were being used for Special Operations. The ships in the Kitty Hawk Battle Group included the USS Vincennes (CG 49), the USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), the USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), the USS Cushing (DD 985), the USS Gary (FFG 51), and the USS Rappahanock (T-AO 204) and the submarine USS Bremerton (SSN 698). Reportedly the Kitty Hawk carried a total of eight F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18C/D strike aircraft, which eventually flew about 100 strike missions. Over 1,000 Special Operations Forces personnel were on the carrier, including the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Navy SEALS, and Air Force Special Operations Forces. Aircraft included a dozen special operations MH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, a half-dozen MH-47 Chinook medium-lift helicopters and several MH-53 Pave Low helicopters. The Kitty Hawk reportedly departed the north Arabian Sea for its home port in Japan on or about 8 December 2001. Other reports suggested the Kitty Hawk departed on or about 16 December 2001. In early April 2002 it was reported that the USS Kitty Hawk was expected to return to the same area for a five-month deployment during the spring of 2002.
The ARG attached to the Kitty Hawk Battle Group consisted of the USS Essex (LHD 2), the USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43), and the USS Juneau (LPD 10). The 31st MEU was the Marine component of this ARG. The ARG visited East Timor on 30 October 2001 and was scheduled to leave port on 31 October 2001.
In early November 2001 it was reported that the 2,200 Marines and sailors who spent October 2001 in Egypt would return home. The 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit had been participating in Bright Star, an exercise with nine other nations that included a total of 70,000 troops. Marines and sailors from Camp Pendleton, Miramar Marine Corps Air Station and Twentynine Palms Marine base took part in the month-long drill with 21,000 other US military members. However, the bulk of these Marines had remained in Egypt for potential deployment under Operation Enduring Freedom.
In early November 2001 the Navy announced that the USS John Stennis (CVN 74) and it's carrier battle group, comprised of seven other vessels, would deploy early on 12 Novermber 2001, heading for the Indian Ocean. The Stennis groups was originally to deploy in January 2002. The battle group had been scheduled to head for the Persian Gulf area in January 2002, but its departure was moved up because of the military action in Afghanistan. The Battle Group made a visit to Hong Kong in the first week of December 2001. The Stennis battle group included six warships, two submarines and one supply vessel. The Stennis was accompanied by the USS Lake Champlain (CG 57), the USS Port Royal (CG 73), the USS Decatur (DDG 73), USS Elliot (DD 967), the USS Jarrett (FFG 33), and the USS Bridge (AOE 10). The Battle Group also had two attack submarines, the USS Salt Lake City (SSN-716) and the USS Jefferson City (SSN 759). They were being joined by a Canadian frigate, the HMCS Vancouver, with a crew of 224. The Stennis arrived in the Arabian Sea on 15 December 2001. To maintain a continuous 24-hour presence over Afghanistan, the Theodore Roosevelt and the Stennis divided air operations into day and night shifts, respectively.
On 28 November 2001 the Navy announced that about 2,000 Marines and sailors of the 13th MEU from Camp Pendleton, CA, would deploy on 1 December 2001, a month earlier than scheduled. Supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, the Marines are embarked on the three ships of the USS Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group. The Marines were expected to relieve the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which had deployed at the forward operating base near Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.
In mid-January 2001 it was reported that repairs to the USS John F. Kennedy might delay the carrier's deployment date past the projected mid-January 2002 timeframe.
On 6 March 2002 commanders ordered 16 more AH-64 Apache and 5 AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters to the fighting in the Gardez area from bases in the United States and aboard carriers in the Arabian Sea. The Marines sent five Cobra attack helicopters into battle. The helicopters had been based on the USS Bonhomme Richard, which had moved into the North Arabian Sea.
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