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Eisenhower strike group back in time for New Year’s

Eisenhower strike group back in time for New Year’s
By Courtney Mabeus

NORFOLK

As the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower steamed out of Norfolk Naval Station in June, some of the aircraft carrier’s sailors said they already missed Chipotle.

Here’s hoping the several fast-casual burrito joints in the region are stocked and ready.

More than 6,000 sailors from the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group return Friday morning from a seven-month deployment to the Middle East and the Mediterranean Sea.

Some are bound to be seeking some creature comforts wrapped in a soft tortilla shell.

The Ike’s return is the first to conform with a Navy goal of shortening deployments to seven months as part of a larger plan intended to standardize maintenance and training cycles. But its return to Norfolk leaves the tumultuous Middle East without a U.S. carrier until it can be replaced by the USS George H. W. Bush, which is scheduled to deploy in late January, said Lt. Cmdr Brian Wierzbicki, a U.S. Navy Fleet Forces Command spokesman.

But that doesn’t mean the region is without military support, Wierzbicki said. About 4,000 sailors and Marines assigned to the San Diego-based Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group arrived in the Middle East in late November.
Also that month, Ike strike group commander Rear Adm. James Malloy handed over leadership of the region’s maritime strike task force to the U.K.’s Royal Navy Commodore Andrew Burns, the U.S. Navy said in a news release. The Royal Navy is operating in the region a helicopter carrier and amphibious assault ship, the HMS Ocean.

The Ike strike group left Norfolk on June 1. It includes the guided-missile cruisers USS San Jacinto and guided-missile destroyers USS Mason and USS Nitze. Another destroyer, the USS Roosevelt, is returning to its homeport in Mayport, Fla.

The group also includes the Norfolk-based cruiser USS Monterey and destroyer USS Stout. The Stout left Norfolk in May and returned in November. The Monterey is expected to return in January, Wierzbicki said.

The strike group’s return followed Thursday’s homecoming of more than 200 crew members assigned to Carrier Air Wing Three. The air wing is composed of East and West Coast squadrons, including the Virginia Beach-based Strike Fighter Squadrons 32, 105 and 131 and the Norfolk-based Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 123, Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 40 and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 7.

The air wing completed 1,900 combat sorties and dropped 1,200 bombs against the Islamic State group, the Navy has said.

The Stout and Nitze were among several vessels the Navy said were harassed this summer by Iranian boats in the Arabian Sea. In October, the Nitze destroyed three radar sites in Houthi rebel-held territory off Yemen’s Red Sea coast in retaliation for what the U.S. said was an earlier threat against the Mason when missiles were unsuccessfully launched against it.

Courtney Mabeus, 757-446-2277, [email protected]

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