More than 5,000 Sailors and Marines assigned to the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (NIMCSG) returned to San Diego Feb. 26 after nearly 11-months deployed in the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operation.
NIMCSG was the first carrier strike group to embark on a deployment for the U.S. Navy after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The strike group was comprised of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 11, aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17, Destroyer Squadron 9, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104).
“The Sailors and Marines of Nimitz Strike Group and their families have given it their all for almost a year. They successfully kept COVID out of the strike group beginning in April of 2020, and stayed healthy throughout our time standing the watch for our nation,” said Rear Adm. Jim Kirk, commander, CSG-11. “These young men and women worked tirelessly to incorporate mitigations that ensured the health, safety and readiness of the crews. They made important contributions to the security and stability in the Middle East, Africa, and Western Pacific during a period of tension and transitions. I am immensely proud of this team and all that they accomplished during this unprecedented deployment.”
The flagship crew walked aboard Nimitz April 1, 2020, at their homeport Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton, Washington. Sailors stationed in San Diego embarked later that week aboard Princeton and Sterett for a restriction-of-movement period to ensure the health and safety of the crew during the pandemic. NIMCSG departed San Diego for deployment June 8 following strike group integrated training.
While deployed, the strike group completed five dual carrier operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operation with the Ronald Reagan and Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Groups, and participated in the India-hosted multinational exercise Malabar 2020 with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Australian Navy in the Bay of Bengal.
In the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operation, NIMCSG supported Operation Freedom’s Sentinel as part of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, and Operation Inherent Resolve with close air support and defensive counter-air missions against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The strike group provided associated and direct support to the 33-nation coalition Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and the 8-nation coalition International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) to ensure the free flow of commerce and maritime security in three critical waterways. NIMCSG also operated off the coast of Somalia in December to support Joint Task Force –Quartz and Operation Octave Quartz during a repositioning of U.S. forces within East Africa.
“It’s hard to express in words the overwhelming sense of accomplishment and pride felt by all hands aboard Nimitz as this long deployment comes to a close,” said Capt. Max Clark, Nimitz’s commanding officer. “I am so very proud of this crew, and the grit and teamwork they demonstrated day in and day out to complete all missions assigned. They and their families have my deepest respect and gratitude.”
After disembarking CVW-17, Nimitz will return to its homeport at Naval Base Kitsap – Bremerton. CVW-17 consists of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 137, VFA 94, VFA 22, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 323, Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 139, Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 116, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 6, Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 73 and Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30.
U.S. 3rd Fleet leads naval forces in the Indo-Pacific and provides the realistic, relevant training necessary to flawlessly execute our Navy’s timeless roles of sea control and power projection. U.S. 3rd Fleet works in close coordination with other numbered Fleets to provide commanders with capable, ready assets to deploy forward and win in day-to-day competition, in crisis, and in conflict.