US Navy aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its carrier strike group (IKE CSG) returned home to Naval Station Norfolk on July 18 following a six-month deployment to the US 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation.
Returning ships include the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (IKE), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72), and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Laboon (DDG 58) and USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116).
Laboon, IKE and Vella Gulf returned to Naval Station Norfolk July 16, 18 and 23, respectively. Thomas Hudner returned to its homeport in Naval Station Mayport July 17.
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.
More than 1,800 navy aviators from the nine squadrons of Carrier Air Wing Three (CVW-3) returned to their home bases in Naval Air Station Oceana, Naval Station Norfolk, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, and Naval Air Station Jacksonville July 13.
“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 TWO. “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.”
As early as Dec. 28, 2020, Eisenhower’s crew, along with additional personnel temporarily assigned to the IKE CSG deployment were required to receive COVID-19 tests and undergo a restriction-of-movement period to ensure the health and safety of the crew during the pandemic.
“Creating a COVID-free bubble for IKE was spearheaded by our Medical Department, and was successful because of a massive effort from all hands afloat. The health and safety of our Sailors is a top priority and we provided continual opportunities for Sailors to get vaccinated during our deployment,” said Capt. Paul F. Campagna, commanding officer, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). “I’m extremely proud of the crew’s character and hard work that set the conditions for IKE’s success throughout our deployment.”
The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group departed Norfolk for deployment Feb. 18 after completing a six-week, historic composite unit training 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 US-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, US Coast Guard, Joint Aviation Command, Royal Saudi Naval Forces and US 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 drawdown of US 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 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.