Carl Vinson strike group to return Thursday

Lance M. Bacon, Staff writer

More than 6,000 sailors will return to San Diego Thursday after a nearly 10-month deployment, which included roughly six months of combat missions against Islamic State militants

The aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, cruiser Bunker Hill and destroyers Dewey, Gridley and Sterett deployed in August for the Western Pacific and Middle East. The strike group flew more than 12,300 sorties, to include 2,382 combat missions that dropped 869 precision-guided bombs against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, according to Navy officials.

Vinson was relieved in mid-April by the carrier Theodore Roosevelt, which sailed from Norfolk, its home of 28 years. The “Big Stick” will join Vinson in San Diego at the conclusion of an eight-month world cruise. This marks the first three-carrier swap of the modern Navy, which has unofficially been dubbed the “three presidents cruise.” The carrier Ronald Reagan will switch its home port from Coronado, Califronia, to Yokosuka, Japan, while the George Washington heads to Newport News, Virginia, for a refueling

The Vinson and TR deployments are scheduled to be the last to exceed seven months for the foreseeable future. Ten-month deployments have been common in recent years; the Bataan Amphibious Readiness Group in 2012 recorded a 322-day deployment — the longest in nearly 40 years. The Optimized Fleet Response Plan is designed to better align maintenance and training schedules with deployments, which will be capped at seven months. The carrier Harry S. Truman is the first beneficiary, and is scheduled to deploy in the fall.

Carrier Air Wing 17 is comprised of the “Fighting Redcocks” of Strike Fighter Squadron 22, the “Sunliners” of VFA-81, the “Stingers” of VFA-113, the “Mighty Shrikes” of VFA-94, the “Cougars” of Electronic Attack Squadron 139, the “Sun Kings” of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 116, the “Red Lions” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 15, the “Battlecats” of Helicopter Sea Maritime Strike Squadron 73, and Fleet Logistic Support Squadron 30.

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