Carrier Group Finishes OIF Support, Journeys Home
By Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Murphy, USN
Special to American Forces Press Service
ABOARD THE USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT, Feb. 15, 2006 The USS Theodore Roosevelt and associated strike group units completed their support of maritime security operations and Operation Iraqi Freedom today when the carrier and USS San Jacinto transited the Suez Canal as they continue their return trip home.
However, detachments from Electronic Attack Squadron 141 and Strike Fighter Squadrons 87 and 15 remain in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and will rejoin the carrier and its associated air wing, Carrier Air Wing 8, later this month.
The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is scheduled to relieve Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, which has been operating in the theater since early October.
"I'm very pleased with the performance of the entire strike group team," said Rear Adm. James A. Winnefeld, commander of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group. "Our sailors have been able to achieve impressive effects in virtually every corner of the 5th Fleet maritime environment, in the skies over Iraq supporting U.S. and coalition troops and through their exceptional conduct while on liberty ashore."
While in theater, Theodore Roosevelt and Carrier Air Wing 8 successfully launched both carrier and land-based flight operations in support of OIF and MSO. "Ingenuity and determination can go a long way," said Capt. William G. Sizemore II, Carrier Air Wing 8 commander. "We increased our effectiveness by setting up both permanent and temporary detachments, and we managed to find ways to expand our support without taking away from our mission capabilities."
Electronic Attack Squadron 141 split the operations of its EA-6B Prowlers between the Theodore Roosevelt and its detachment at an air base inside Iraq, allowing for readily available in-country air support.
Sea Control Squadron 24 successfully divided the use of its S-3B Vikings to support both CVW-8 and British ground forces of Multinational Division Southeast in Iraq. Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 3 provided support for troops operating in MND-SE as well.
F-14 Tomcats assigned to Fighter Squadrons (213 and 31, as well as F/A-18s assigned to Strike Fighter Squadrons 15 and 87, also were key factors to the mission's success with their reconnaissance, surveillance and close-air-support missions.
During the Theodore Roosevelt's port visit to Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates, during the Thanksgiving holiday week, Strike Fighter Squadrons 15 and 87 continued to provide air support from an air base in Iraq.
"The team effort of TR and CVW-8 during the past four months has been vital not only to our success, but also to the success of the ground forces in Iraq," said Capt. J.R. Haley, USS Theodore Roosevelt commanding officer. "Our efforts have saved the lives of the Marines and soldiers on the ground. We made a difference to them - and to the people they are fighting for."
USS Theodore Roosevelt and Carrier Air Wing 8 launched more than 5,500 sorties, totaling over 21,000 flight hours in support of OIF and MSO while in theater.
USS San Jacinto, USS Donald Cook, and USS Oscar Austin experienced much success in their efforts to deny terrorist organizations use of the maritime environment to support their operations while keeping waters safe for merchant traffic and fishing vessels.
Boarding teams from each ship conducted visit, board, search and seizure operations, monitoring vessels to ensure the legitimate use of international waters in the Persian Gulf, while at the same time building relations with local mariners by providing first aid, mechanical assistance and even food from time to time.
All three ships also conducted operations in the Northern Arabian Gulf, where they provided protection in Iraqi territorial waters and for their two major oil terminals -Basrah and Khawr Al Amaya. Both terminals combined generate 85 percent of Iraq's gross national product.
"The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group played a key role in one of the monumental moments in our country's history," said Vice Adm. Patrick Walsh, 5th Fleet commander. "Their responsibility, reach, and influence will have lasting effects on future generations.
"There is only one thing tougher than being out here, and that is not being here, and saying no to the chance to make a contribution to this important, critical mission. The sailors of Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group said yes to that chance, made a difference, and should be proud of what they've accomplished."