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Fri, Nov 28, 2008

Flying High: Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group Returns From Deployment

Five ships and more than 5,500 Sailors of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 7 returned to their homeport of San Diego Nov. 25 after a six-month deployment to the 7th Fleet and 5th Fleet areas of responsibility. The strike group flagship, the Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), the guided-missile destroyers USS Decatur (DDG 73) and USS Gridley (DDG 101) and the guided-missile frigate USS Thach (FFG 43) arrived to meet thousands of family members waiting on the pier.

The deployment was the third-ever for the Ronald Reagan Strike Group, which performed combat operations in support of coalition troops in Afghanistan, as well as carrying out a humanitarian assistance/disaster relief mission in the Philippines in response to Typhoon Fengshen in June and July.

"There is no question that Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group had a very successful deployment," said Commander, Carrier Strike Group 7, Rear Adm. Scott Hebner.

"The talented and dedicated Sailors of this group demonstrated tremendous operational flexibility and performed at the highest levels of excellence across the warfare spectrum and core capabilities of the Maritime Strategy. They were warriors, ambassadors, partners and humanitarians. They represent all that is good in our country and I'm profoundly honored to sail with this impressive strike group."

The deployment ceased being routine when Mother Nature unleashed its wrath on the Philippines. Typhoon Fengshen struck the nation hard, particularly on the island of Panay, leaving 540 dead and destroying more than 100,000 homes.

The Ronald Reagan Strike Group, which was enjoying its first port call of the deployment in Hong Kong, left port a day early to avoid the storm and after receiving an order from President Bush, immediately steamed to the Philippines to help.

Arriving on station in only 36 hours, helicopters from all six CSG-7 ships, including the guided-missile destroyer USS Howard (DDG 83), proceeded to fly eight consecutive days delivering more than 519,000 pounds of fresh water, rice and medical supplies.

"These people were on the brink of despair," said Ronald Reagan commanding officer Capt. Kenneth Norton. "We rolled right in, we got ourselves organized and we got our folks on the beach and helped quickly. In my 27 years in the Navy, that was without a doubt the most fulfilling mission I've ever been a part of."

After 7th Fleet key engagement visits to Korea, Japan and Malaysia, the Ronald Reagan Strike Group transferred to 5th Fleet. Ronald Reagan, Chancellorsville and Reagan's embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 took up station in the Gulf of Oman as Commander, Task Force 50 and immediately began support of coalition forces on the ground in southern Afghanistan, flying more than 1,150 sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

While Ronald Reagan and its air wing helped provide security on the ground in Afghanistan, other strike group ships provided maritime security in the region.

Decatur and Thach joined Task Force 152 in the Central Arabian Gulf, while Gridley and Howard patrolled the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden as part of Task Force 150.

CSG-7 ships also strengthened maritime partnerships by participating in the bilateral Exercise Malabar '08 with the Navy of India, as well as South East Asia Cooperation Against Terrorism with the navies of Brunei, Singapore and the Republic of the Philippines.

The group departed San Diego on May 19 and after a very eventful deployment, Sailors were eager to spend the holidays with family and enjoy some well-deserved time off.

"It feels really good to be home with my family again after such a long time out to sea.," said Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Aaron Goldsmith of Ronald Reagan. "I'm also really stoked about being able to go to the beach and surf again whenever I want."

The deployment was the third for Ronald Reagan, the U.S. Navy's newest and largest aircraft carrier, which was commissioned in 2003. The squadrons of CVW-14 supported many missions during the six month deployment and include the "Redcocks" of VFA-22, "Fist of the Fleet" of VFA-25, "Stingers" of VFA-113, "Eagles" of VFA-115, "Black Eagles" of Airborne Early Warning Squadron 113, "Cougars" of Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 139, "Black Knights" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 4 and the "Providers" of Carrier Logistics Support 30.

FMI: www.navy.mil/local/cvn76/

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