Carrier Air Wing 3 Returns from Eisenhower Strike Group Deployment

The nine aircraft squadrons of Carrier Air Wing Three (CVW-3) returned to Naval Air Station Oceana, Naval Station Norfolk, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, and Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Jul. 13 after their six-month deployment aboard the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (IKE).

The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (IKE CSG) departed Norfolk for deployment on Feb. 18 after completing a six-week, historic composite unit training exercise (COMPTUEX). The 2021 COMPTUEX included a NATO vignette as well as integrated training with SEALs from Naval Special Warfare Group 2. IKE CSG’s follow-on deployment took place across both U.S. 6th and 5th Fleets.

Embarked aboard Eisenhower, CVW-3 supported Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) from the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS) in the Arabian Sea as a continuation of the U.S. commitment to promote maritime stability, ensure safe passage, and deescalate tensions in international waters throughout 5th Fleet.

For their part in OFS, the IKE CSG provided armed over-watch, security, electronic attack, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in support of the drawdown of U.S. and coalition forces from Afghanistan from Apr. 28 to Jun. 23. The IKE CSG was relieved of OFS duties by the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group Jun. 23.

CVW-3 conducted a total of 6,100 sorties and 12,401 flight hours for the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group’s deployment.

Capt. Marcos Jasso, commander, CVW-3, reflected on the air wing’s accomplishments while embarked aboard IKE.

“The courage and effort put forth by the Sailors of CVW-3 over these many months speaks great volumes to their unwavering commitment to success, no matter what kind of adversity emerges over the horizon,” said Jasso. “Our Sailors gave it their all each and every single day during this deployment. I am honored to have served with our great air wing and flight deck crew. I wish them all a relaxed and enjoyable time off after deployment. The whole strike group deserves it. They’ve all earned it.”

Some of CVW-3’s highlights from the seven-month deployment included the air wing’s participation in Exercise Lightning Handshake 21, a U.S.-led, bi-lateral maritime exercise with the Royal Moroccan Navy and Royal Moroccan Air Force, and conducted dual-carrier flight operations with the French Navy (Marine Nationale) Charles de Gaulle Carrier Strike Group in the Arabian Sea, Apr. 13, which demonstrated the combined military capabilities fostered through many years of operations between the U.S. and French navies.

CVW 3 Conducted protected entry operations as USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) and USS Monterey (CG 61) transited into the Black Sea, Mar. 19. CVW 3 aircraft conducted aerial refueling operations with a Turkish KC-135 to extend time on-station and demonstrate our high-end interoperability with NATO partners.

Cmdr. Michael Luebkert, commanding officer, Airborne Command and Control VAW-123 “Screwtops”, reflected on the squadron’s achievements during the 2021 CSG mission.

“I am honored to have been part of this great team. It took a great deal of strength, focus, and effort from every member to overcome the many personal, professional, and tactical challenges we faced during this deployment,” said Luebkert. “I’m in awe of all the Sailors that make the difficult look easy and am proud to stand with my brothers and sisters from Carrier Air Wing Three and looking forward to having families reunite and the end of deployment.”

Luebkert added that the Screwtops have been answering the call of duty for over 50 years and have proven to be a dynamic pillar of naval aviation.

“Having checked into my squadron only a couple months prior to deployment, I truly could not have predicted what the following months would have in store,” said Lt. Kaylyn Young, a naval aviator attached to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM-74). “Whether I was walking to a spinning helicopter with jets landing only a few feet away, seeing the Strait of Gibraltar from the air, coordinating a game night with VAQ-130, or applying our training against real-world threats, it is difficult to identify the sole highlight from my first deployment.”

The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group worked alongside the Hellenic, Italian, Albanian and Turkish navies, as a reassurance to NATO allies, European and African partners and friends of the United States’ continued commitment to operate in Sixth Fleet. While in 5th Fleet, the strike group conducted exercises with the Canadian Navy and later with the Egyptian Navy. The IKE CSG also participated in joint operations with the United Arab Emirates, U.S. Coast Guard, Joint Aviation Command, Royal Saudi Naval Forces and U.S. Air Forces Central.

Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is a multiplatform team of ships, aircraft and more than 5,000 Sailors, capable of carrying out a wide variety of missions around the globe. The Navy provides a ready, flexible force capable of responding to a broad range of contingencies.

Squadrons returning to Naval Air Station Oceana include Strike Fighter Squadron VFA- 32 “Swordsmen” flying 12 F/A-18F Super Hornets; VFA-131, the “Wildcats” flying 10 F/A-18E Super Hornets; the “Gunslingers” of VFA-105 flying 12 F/A-18E Super Hornets; and VFA-83 “Rampagers” flying 10 F/A-18E Super Hornets.

Squadrons returning to Naval Station Norfolk include the “Screwtops” of Airborne Command & Control Squadron (VAW) 123 flying four E-2C Hawkeyes, HSC-7 “Dusty Dogs” flying eight MH-60S Knighthawks, and Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40 “Rawhides” flying two C-2A Greyhounds.

The Zappers of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 130 flying 5 EA-18G Growlers are returning to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

The “Swamp Foxes” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 74 flying 11 MH-60R Seahawks are returning to Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

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