NORFOLK, Va. – The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (IKE) returned home to Naval Station Norfolk July 18 following a six-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation, the U.S. 2nd Fleet said in a release.
It was the third homecoming in as many days for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (IKE CSG). The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58) returned to Nofolk July 16 and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) returned to its homeport in Naval Station Mayport, Florida, July 17.
Additionally, more than 1,800 Navy aviators from the nine squadrons of Carrier Air Wing Three (CVW-3) returned to their home bases at Naval Air Station Oceana, Naval Station Norfolk, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, and Naval Air Station Jacksonville July 13.
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) will return to Norfolk July 23. Meanwhile, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61) and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Mitscher (DDG 57) and USS Mahan (DDG 72) remain on deployment and will return to Norfolk at a future date.
In addition to homecoming news, it was announced that the courageous efforts of the IKE CSG’s Sailors were recognized by Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Harker with the Navy Unit Commendation for operational excellence.
“The Sailors of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group and their families have served and sacrificed a tremendous amount by answering the nation’s call to duty, spanning two deployments with only a short reset in between,” said Rear Adm. Scott F. Robertson, commander, Carrier Strike Group 2. “Nevertheless, our well-trained, exceptional Sailors rose to each challenge, enabling our strike group to be a dynamic force across great distances conducting simultaneous missions between both 5th and 6th Fleet.”
The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group departed Norfolk for deployment Feb. 18 after successfully completing a six-week, historic composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX). This year’s COMPTUEX included a NATO vignette and incorporated integrated training with SEALs from Naval Special Warfare Group 2 for the first time in recent history.
While in 6th Fleet, the IKE CSG supported national security interests in Europe through increased theater cooperation and maintaining a forward naval presence. While in the Atlantic Ocean and transiting through the Mediterranean Sea, the IKE CSG conducted Exercise Lightning Handshake 21, a U.S.-led, bi-lateral maritime exercise with the Royal Moroccan Navy and Royal Moroccan Air Force. The strike group also participated in Exercise Sea Shield 21, a multinational naval exercise hosted by Romania, alongside ships from nine different nations to conduct operations across the entire spectrum of naval warfare. The IKE CSG also worked alongside the Israeli navy and conducted passing exercises with the Hellenic, Italian, Albanian and Turkish navies.
In 5th Fleet, the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group and French Navy (Marine Nationale) Charles de Gaulle Carrier Strike Group (CDGSG) conducted dual carrier operations in the Arabian Sea. Shortly after the dual carrier operations, the IKE CSG ships participated in submarine familiarization exercises and conducted passing exercises with the Canadian navy in the Arabian Sea and later with the Egyptian navy in the Red Sea. The strike group’s ships also participated in joint air operations in support of maritime surface warfare exercises with the United Arab Emirates, U.S. Coast Guard, Joint Aviation Command, Royal Saudi Naval Forces and U.S. Air Forces Central.
Embarked to Eisenhower, CVW-3 supported both missions Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS), in the Arabian Sea as a continuation of the United States’ commitment to maritime security, stability, as well as to ensure safe passage and deescalate tensions throughout international waters in 5th Fleet.
During its final month in 5th Fleet, the IKE CSG provided naval aviation support for the responsible, deliberate and safe drawdown of U.S. and coalition forces from Afghanistan April 28 to June 23 in support of OFS. CVW-3 conducted a total of 6,100 sorties and 12,401 flight hours throughout the strike group’s deployment.
“The courage and effort put forth by the Sailors of CVW-3 over these many months speaks great volumes to their unwavering commitment to success, no matter what kind of adversity emerges over the horizon,” said Capt. Marcos A. Jasso, commander, Carrier Air Wing Three. “Our Sailors gave it their all each and every day during this deployment and I am honored to have served with our great air wing and flight deck crew. I wish them all a relaxed and enjoyable time off after deployment. The whole strike group deserves it. They’ve all earned it.”
The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group sailed more than 190,000 nautical miles, operating dynamically across multiple fleets with our NATO allies, partners and friends. The strike group’s ships completed multiple strait and choke point transits, including the Strait of Gibraltar, the Suez Canal, Strait of Hormuz and Strait of Bab el Mandeb.
“As the flagship of the strike group, we maneuvered IKE into the right battlespace for launching and recovering air wing missions ashore and over the horizon,” Campagna said. “IKE Sailors operated decisively and safely with a clear sense of purpose.”
“It took diligence, hard work, and grit from everyone to ensure our strike group remained safe and combat-ready throughout this deployment. What we do while deployed is no small feat considering we are the only Navy that can operate in a sustained manner with the kind of combat power we provide,” said Rear Adm. Robertson. “I am exceedingly proud of each and every one of our Sailors for their exceptional performance and it has been an honor to serve alongside this team of warfighters for the Eisenhower Strike Group’s 2021 mission. However, we still have a few of our strike group’s ships that remain on station and we should keep them and their families in our thoughts until they return to Norfolk.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is a multiplatform team of ships, aircraft and more than 5,000 Sailors, capable of carrying out a wide variety of missions around the globe. The Navy provides a ready, flexible force capable of responding to a broad range of contingencies.