USS Enterprise (CVN 65), the U.S. Navy’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier – and at 51 years of age, its longest serving – has left homeport on her 22nd and final overseas deployment.
The Enterprise, affectionately known as the “Big E,” left Naval Station Norfolk, Va., March 11 as flagship of a carrier strike group for the 5th Fleet area of operations. At 1,123 feet in length, the 94,000-ton Enterprise was the world’s first “supercarrier,” and is still the largest ship in the U.S. Navy.
Earlier this year, sailors and Marines of the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group (CSG 12) participated in three major exercises in preparation for deployment, including COMPTUEX, a composite training unit exercise; a Joint Task Force Exercise; and the naval amphibious exercise Bold Alligator 2012.
During these exercises, the ship and air wing team were faced with a variety of scenarios to help prepare them for deployment, including launching aircraft in support of ground operations and protecting the strike group from surface, submarine, and air threats.
“This is the only chance we get as a strike group to work and train together,” said Capt. Robert D. Boyer, deputy commander of CVW 1 [Carrier Air Wing 1]. “This was a big deal because it’s a tough and constant scenario and everybody across the board pulled together and made it come off really well.”
“This Strike Group is trained and ready for the full-spectrum of operations,” said Rear Adm. Walter E. “Ted” Carter, commander, Enterprise CSG 12. “We’re ready to maintain freedom of the sea lanes, project power if directed to do so, and certainly perform a presence mission.”
“During my time as commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, I haven’t sent a strike group under way that is as ready as you are,” said Adm. John C. Harvey, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, while addressing the crew of Enterprise prior to the ship getting under way. “No one has done as much to get ready, worked as hard, and accomplished as much in every warfare area. You should be very proud of what you’re going to be doing once you get to where you’re going … where the business of the nation needs you.”
The strike group includes Destroyer Squadron 2, the Mayport, Fla.-based guided-missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69) and three Norfolk-based guided-missile destroyers: USS Porter (DDG 78), USS Nitze (DDG 94), and USS James E. Williams (DDG 95).
Flying from the Enterprise will be the eight squadrons of CVW 1, which includes F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets from Oceana Naval Air Station, Virginia Beach, Va., (VFA-211 “Checkmates,” VFA-11 “Red Rippers,” and VMFA-251 “Thunderbolts”); the electronic attack squadron VAQ-137 “Rooks,” flying the EA-6B Prowler; the carrier airborne early warning squadron VAW-123 “Screwtops,” Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron 11 (HS-11), the “Dragonslayers;” and a detachment of C-2A Greyhound carrier on-board delivery aircraft from the VRC-40 “Rawhides.”
Enterprise is headed to the U.S. Navy’s 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation – the Middle East and Mediterranean – as part of an ongoing rotation of U.S. forces supporting maritime security operations in international waters around the globe.