Truman deploys, headed for war strikes on ISIS

By Lance M. Bacon, Staff writer

NAVAL STATION NORFOLK, Va. — The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group departed early Monday on what’s expected to be a seven-month deployment as tensions rise in the fight against brutal so-called Islamic State group militants. Though the pump has been scheduled for more than a year, the recent terrorist attacks in France — and that nation’s military response — was not lost on the 6,000 sailors headed to sea.

“We certainly extend our condolences to the French and look forward to supporting them as part of a coalition in any way that we can,” said Rear Adm. Bret Batchelder, the Truman CSG’s commander. “We are a barometer of national resolve. We are going to go where it is most important for our nation to send us, anywhere around the globe, and we don’t need a permission slip to operate there. That’s the value that we bring and we take great pride in that.”

There were no immediate changes to deployment orders as a result of Friday’s terror attacks, but there is great resolve among the sailors to support their French allies, said Capt. Ryan Scholl, Truman’s skipper. Scholl said his crew is ready to bring peace or “violent destruction.”

Carrier Theodore Roosevelt left 5th Fleet in mid-October, leaving that region without a carrier until the Truman CSG gets there, which should be about six weeks. Scholl offered assurance to coalition and U.S. forces still in the fight across Syria and Iraq as part of Operation Inherent Resolve.

“The Harry S. Truman battle group will be there in due time and execute our mission successfully,” he said. “We hope that brings some peace of mind to the people that are out there, both our coalition partners as well as our troops on the ground, and it brings a hard-to-swallow, deliberate pause in our enemy.”

ISIS is not the only challenge that awaits the flotilla, which includes the cruiser Anzio, Carrier Wing Air 7, and destroyers Bulkeley, Gravely and Gonzalez. Russian, Chinese and Iranian marines have established their presence in Syria, and Russian warships from the Black Sea have relocated to the eastern Mediterranean to protect fighter jets conducting airstrikes in support of Syria’s Assad regime. In preparation, the strike group’s Composite Training Unit Exercise focused on adversaries that more closely resembled those of the Cold War.

Just to get underway is a victory of sorts for Truman’s crew. The Navy in October 2014 bumped up her deployment date by nearly half a year as Truman took the place of the carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ike had a record-setting, 23-month yard period after back-to-back deployments from June 2012 to December 2012, and from February 2013 to July 2013, causing more maintenance than expected.

Truman entered a shortened overhaul at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in November.. It was supposed to last 15 weeks and require 78,000 man-days, but nearly doubled to more than 28 weeks and 135,000 man-days. The expedited deployment also required the crew to get all qualifications in less than half the normal work-up time; the flattop’s crew did one year’s worth of training in five months and did so without one waiver.

The pride of that achievement was evident on the face of Command Master Chief (AW/SW) Tony Perryman.

“Where we have been and where we are now is a true testament to the hard work and dedication of our sailors,” he said. “This is the best place to be on planet Earth.”

Deploying, for two sailors, is a family affair. This is the 13th and final deployment for Lt. Cmdr. Kent Davis, the ship’s aircraft handling officer. He will be joined by his son, Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class (AW/SW) Jordan Davis, who is on his first cruise.

“It’s awesome,” the 26-year veteran said. “It’s a good opportunity to be together as father and son, and watch him grow in the Navy and serve our country.”

The sentiment was echoed by his 20-year-old son, who called it “very special,” and “unique.” While mom and wife Lori is “ecstatic” about the assignments, and the father-son duo look forward to sharing meals in foreign lands, Kent said he will also keep his distance so that his son can experience ports alongside his friends.

“It’s his turn to go out and see the world,” he said. “I’m just happy to give him a wave from time to time.”

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