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US carrier returns home after record 206 consecutive days at sea

USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69)
Sailors man the rails as USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) returns to Naval Station Norfolk. Photo: US Navy

US Navy aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and ships from its carrier strike group returned home to Norfolk Naval Station on August 9, after seven months of operations in Europe and the Middle East.

Returning ships include the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (IKE) (CVN 69) and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56). Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72), Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) and USS Truxtun (DDG 103) are scheduled to return to Norfolk Aug. 10. USS Stout (DDG 55) remains on deployment and will return to Norfolk at a future date.

Dwight D. Eisenhower CSG ships departed Norfolk, Va., Jan. 17, for the strike group’s Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) and follow-on deployment. Sailors on board the carrier would go on to spend a record-breaking 206 consecutive days at sea.

“Words cannot express the admiration I have for each and every Sailor onboard. These young men and women were thrust into a situation no one could have predicted and they responded as only Navy Sailors can – they adapted and overcame the adversity. I witnessed their excellence day in and day out as they accomplished repairs never before attempted at sea,” said Capt. Kyle Higgins, Ike’s commanding officer. “I am deeply humbled to have the privilege of working alongside them. They are what make our navy the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen.”

Sailors assigned to the Eisenhower and San Jacinto transited to the equator and participated in a unique crossing the line ceremony, becoming the Navy’s first ‘Iron Shellbacks,’ with more than 100 days at sea May 14. Ike petitioned Naval History and Heritage Command to commemorate this feat in conjunction with crossing the equator as a new title: ‘Iron Shellback.’

Ike returning to Norfolk. Photo: US Navy

IKECSG ships each sailed more than 60,000 nautical miles, operating dynamically through multiple exercises with allies and partners and dual-carriers operations with the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). The 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.

Demonstrating resiliency and self-sufficiency, Sailors from across the strike group and air wing made several complex repairs to vital equipment and systems, correcting more than 500 category 3 and 4 CASREPs, that would normally be conducted at depot level, or require onboard technical assist visits.

“Our sailors inspire me with their grit, pride and professionalism. They are the back bone of IKE strike group’s warfighting excellence,” said Rear Adm. Brendan McLane, commander, Carrier Strike Group 10. “IKE CSG sailors demonstrated resiliency in the face of adversity by their ingenuity, flexibility, and self-sufficiency. They were a testament to the strike group’s ability to adapt and overcome the tough challenges of this deployment.”