PACIFIC OCEAN -- Leadership from the U.S. Navy visited USS Nimitz (CVN) 68 at sea Feb. 24 and 25.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith visited the 46-year-old carrier and met with Sailors and Marines to personally thank them for their dedication and praised their resilience as the ship prepares to return home from an extended deployment.
“There are 347,000 Sailors in the United States Navy and I can guarantee you that every single one of them is proud of this ship and of this strike group,” said Gilday in an address to the crew over the 1MC, the ship’s public address system. “Besides being grateful to each and every one of you, I am sincerely grateful for your families, spouses, significant others, children and parents who have supported you every day since you’ve been out to sea.”
The visit comes on day 324 since the crew and staffs of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 11 and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9 embarked Nimitz April 1, 2020, for what would be a 27-day restriction of movement (ROM) period pierside in Bremerton, Washington. The ROM period was one of many COVID mitigation efforts taken by Nimitz to ensure the crew’s operational readiness.
The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (NIMCSG) deployed from San Diego June 8 after completing a composite training unit exercise. Over the course of a nearly 11 months, NIMCSG completed four dual carrier operations in U.S. 7th Fleet with Ronald Reagan and Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Groups, and conducted cooperative deployments with the Indian and Australian navies. The ships also participated in multinational exercise MALABAR 2020 with Japan, Australia and India.
“There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that Nimitz has not made an impact in the world,” said Gilday. “We haven’t had a deployment this long since the second world war.”
During their visit, Gilday and Smith awarded Sailors with coins to thank them for their exceptional job performance throughout this deployment.
“After experiencing this long deployment, it feels really amazing to be recognized and appreciated by the top leadership of the Navy,” said Lt. Cmdr. Eric Alexander, Nimitz’ aircraft handler.
While operating in U.S. 5th Fleet, NIMCSG supported Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, part of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission. In September 2020, the strike group began operations in the Arabian Gulf, conducting the first aircraft carrier Strait of Hormuz transit in nearly a year. NIMCSG also supported Operation Inherent Resolve, providing close air support and defensive counter-air missions to the coalition fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and to Joint Task Force – Quartz and Operation Octave Quartz during a repositioning of U.S. forces within East Africa, transiting to the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia in December 2020.
Thus far on deployment, Nimitz has conducted over 35,345 flight hours, 14,141 traps/ landings, served over 1,000 meals, fired 234,290 bullets, employed 336 bombs, provided medical and dental care for over 24,248 patients, conducted 6,372,000 rotations of the SPS-48 Air Search RADAR and traveled 96,958 nautical miles so far.
“I can’t even imagine how proud you must be to come back to your families after having been out at sea for the longest period in modern history,” said Gilday. “Thank you, congratulations and welcome home.”