By Rear Adm. Bruce Lindsey
Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic
After completing a seven-month deployment in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operations in support of maritime theater security operations and flying missions supporting Operation Inherent Resolve over the skies of Iraq and Syria, the ships and squadrons of the USS George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group returned safely home.
Thousands of friends and family members lined the piers of Naval Station Norfolk to welcome home more than 6,000 strike group Sailors! More than 300 Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 aircrew flew home to cheering, flag-waving crowds in Norfolk, Oceana, Mayport and Whidbey Island.
While deployed, CVW-8 and USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) launched 11,437 sorties, completed 1,924 combat missions. With flawless execution the aviators successfully delivered 1,717 pieces of ordnance on target with devastating lethality. By the end of the deployment, our aviators logged an amazing 30,873 flight hours and 7,868 arrested landings. These impressive numbers set post-Desert Storm records for any CVN/CVW team.
This deployment is yet another example of the pivotal role naval aviation plays in our national defense. As the U.S. Navy’s ‘Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority’ states, we have the mission to “conduct PROMPT and SUSTAINED combat power from and at sea, necessary to fight and win decisively in contested and denied environments against our enemies.” That is exactly what the men and women of CVW-8 and the strike group accomplished on deployment. The team delivered a devastating blow to the capabilities of ISIS, allowing our partners on the battlefield to employ a strategic initiative to retake large swaths of land in Northern Iraq and Syria.
I have written several blog posts about how our carriers benefit from the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP). OFRP is designed to maximize our return on training and maintenance investments, to maintain Sailor quality of life and ensure units are fully employable and deployable. By the time the strike group deployed, it was at the peak of readiness and this was clearly demonstrated through their record-setting accomplishments.
With USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) now at Norfolk Naval Shipyard to begin her maintenance phase, the first phase of the four-part OFRP cycle, George H.W. Bush enters the post deployment portion of its sustainment phase to maintain her combat readiness in order to be prepared to deploy fully ready combat forces if required by our Nation.
While George H.W. Bush is in her sustainment phase, CVW-8 will also be in sustainment. For the air wing, this means several underway periods to maintain their carrier qualification requirements, maintain their aircraft at optimum performance levels and provide continuous training in combat flight operations and maintenance.
Meeting these standards will allow CVW-8 to effectively remain combat ready around the clock in the event the president of the United States decides they need to surge an additional carrier strike group.
This will be a challenge, but I have every confidence that the George H. W. Bush Carrier Strike Group team will not only meet but also exceed our leadership’s standards and expectations.
Finally, I send my strongest congratulations to entire carrier strike group for your tireless efforts and commitment to the Navy’s standard of excellence. Bravo Zulu, well done and welcome home!