Strike Group’s Dynamic Force Employment Draws to a Close, Departs European Waters
ATLANTIC OCEAN — The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (CSG) departed the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations Dec. 11 after more than three months of theater security cooperation and maritime security operations in the Arctic Ocean and Norwegian, Mediterranean and Adriatic seas, the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs said in a release.
The strike group’s presence in European waters was the execution of U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ Dynamic Force Employment (DFE) concept. The CSG’s deployment began in April and became highly unpredictable when the carrier and a few of its strike group ships remained in the Mediterranean Sea instead of transiting to the Middle East as expected, and then returned to its homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, in July after completing three months of combat operations and cooperative exercises and engagements with NATO allies and partners in the Mediterranean and North Atlantic.
Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Italy, noted how the Harry S. Truman CSG’s deployment supported Department of Defense DFE initiatives and addressed a return to great power competition.
“The National Defense Strategy makes clear that we must be operationally unpredictable to our long-term strategic adversaries, while upholding our commitments to our allies and partners,” Foggo said. “That’s what we've done with the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group. The operations the strike group conducted across the region alongside our allies and partners — and withstanding a variety of austere environmental conditions in the High North — showcase our inherent flexibility and prove that there are no international waters off limits to our forces, and nothing limiting their ability to support our allies, anywhere or at any time.”
Over the course of seven months in the region, the Harry S. Truman CSG conducted numerous bilateral and multilateral operations alongside allied and partner navies, to include forces from France, Germany, Italy, Norway and the United Kingdom. In the spring, the strike group participated in exercise Baltic Operations from the Adriatic Sea — the first cross-continent support to the exercise from an aircraft carrier; and exercise Lightning Handshake with Morocco.
Upon its return to the European Region in September, the strike group’s sustained operations above the Arctic Circle were the first for an aircraft carrier in more than two decades. Strike group ships and aircraft then participated in the NATO-led exercise Trident Juncture 2018 which involved personnel, ships and aircraft from every NATO member nation as well as partners Finland and Sweden. During Trident Juncture, the strike group operated alongside Royal Norwegian Navy ships in the Vestfjorden, a sea area inside Norwegian territorial waters.
Trident Juncture was NATO’s largest exercise since the Cold War with participation from 50,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, and more than 250 aircraft, 65 ships, and 10,000 vehicles from 31 participating allied and partner nations.
“Collective defense has become a more prominent feature of NATO exercises due to the changes in the security landscape, particularly with regard to the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia,” said Foggo during a press conference at NATO headquarters in October. “Russia has renewed its capabilities in the North Atlantic and the Arctic in places not seen since the Cold War.”
In his monthly podcast “On the Horizon: Navigating the European and African Theaters,” Foggo said, “Truman is making the most of an operating area where carriers typically haven't gone for a couple of decades. And in doing so, we are rebuilding our muscle memory. It's very important that we take those lessons back home for other future strike group deployments.”
During a visit to Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy, Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, praised the U.S. Naval Forces Europe/U.S.6th Fleet Sailors for their implementation and execution of DFE with the Harry S. Truman CSG.
“I am proud of all the Sailors in Naval Forces Europe and Africa, serving here in Naples and across the theater at sea,” said Richardson during an all-hands call. “These Sailors are doing tremendously important work. Defining and redefining the way that our Navy is going to operate going into the future as we reembrace this idea of great power competition. We are entering a maritime era. The responsibilities for naval forces — the United States Navy and navies of our allies and partners — has never been greater.”
Harry S. Truman CSG units departing the region include the flagship Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, embarked squadrons of Carrier Air Wing 1, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers of Destroyer Squadron 28; USS Arleigh Burke and USS Forrest Sherman.