Bush carrier strike group enters 6th Fleet at Suez Canal, headed home

By David Larter
Staff writer

The aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush is out of Central Command and is heading home.

The big deck and its escorts had chopped into 6th Fleet as of Monday, according to a Navy spokesman. The carrier is expected back in its home port of Norfolk by mid-November after a nine-month deployment.

The dividing line between 5th and 6th Fleets is the entrance to the Suez Canal, which joins the Mediterranean and Red seas.

The Bush deployed in mid-February with the destroyers Truxtun and Roosevelt and the cruiser Philippine Sea.

Bush has been at the front lines of the fight against the Islamic State group for three months. The Bush was providing tactical air coverage in Afghanistan when the crisis in Iraq began coming to a head this summer.

The Navy’s top officer told sailors in an all-hands call in August that the Bush was called into action early in the summer when CENTCOM needed reconnaissance flights over Iraq.

“We were where it mattered, when it mattered, when it happened,” said Adm. Jon Greenert, chief of naval operations. “They said, ‘We need air cover now. We need intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance now.’ The George Bush was just two days away, they were just outside the Arabian Gulf doing support operations for Afghanistan, doing close air support. … They stopped their sorties, went into the Arabian Gulf and [provided the] overflights requested.”

Bush has since launched dozens of strikes against the Islamic State group inside Iraq, helping end the crisis at the Haditha Dam and striking at IS forces in the vicinity of Erbil.

And sailors in the Bush carrier strike group were among the first fleet sailors to qualify for the new deployment pay. The Bush and its escorts began to qualify for this pay in late September, when they crossed 220 days into their cruise.

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