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Truman Strike Group Headed Home After ‘Dynamic’ Deployment

USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) as the ship transits the Strait of Gibraltar on Dec. 4, 2018. US Navy Photo

The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group has sailed out of U.S. 6th Fleet and is on its way back to its homeport in Norfolk, Va.

The strike group is wrapping up the second of two back-to-back three-month deployments as part of the Navy’s first attempt to demonstrate the Pentagon’s dynamic force employment concept.

The HST CSG departed in April, returned home for a five-week-long working port visit in Norfolk in July, and then left again in late August to head to the High North.

During the second prong of the deployment, the strike group bucked all recent norms for carrier strike groups: bypassing ongoing missions in the Middle East, the ships sailed north to Canada for training and then on to Iceland, Great Britain and Norway. The strike group spent a couple weeks operating north of the Arctic Circle, a first since the early 1990s. All told, USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) and its escorts had a presence in the Atlantic Ocean and Norwegian, Mediterranean and Adriatic seas.

“The National Defense Strategy makes clear that we must be operationally unpredictable to our long-term strategic adversaries, while upholding our commitments to our allies and partners,” Adm. James Foggo, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Force Command Naples, said in a statement today.
“That’s what we’ve done with the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group. The operations the strike group conducted across the region alongside our allies and partners – and withstanding a variety of austere environmental conditions in the High North – showcase our inherent flexibility, and prove that there are no international waters off limits to our forces, and nothing limiting their ability to support our allies, anywhere or at any time.”

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut (DDG 99) conducts a replenishment-at-sea alongside the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), Sept. 19, 2018. Farragut, homeported at Naval Station Mayport, Florida, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa. US Navy photo.

Highlights of the deployment include participating in exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2018 from the Adriatic Sea – the first time a carrier has launched aircraft from across the European continent to participate in the exercise, according to the Navy statement – participating in Exercise Trident Juncture 2018 from Norway’s Vestfjorden territorial waters, conducting dual-carrier operations involving F-35C Joint Strike Fighters from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), and working with a slew of NATO allies and partners on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Truman is making the most of an operating area where carriers typically haven’t gone for a couple of decades. And in doing so, we are rebuilding our muscle memory,” Foggo said in a recent podcast entitled, “On the Horizon: Navigating the European and African Theaters.”
“It’s very important that we take those lessons back home for other future strike group deployments.”

Pilots transit the flight deck after a flight aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) on Nov. 21, 2018, in the Mediterranean Sea. US Navy photo.

In recent weeks, the strike group sailed to the warmer waters of the Mediterranean, operating off the coasts of Portugal and Spain and in the Adriatic Sea on the eastern side of Italy. The carrier passed through the Strait of Gibraltar on Dec. 4 to return to the Atlantic and is now on its way home.

Truman CSG Commander Rear Adm. Gene Black previously alluded to the strike group returning home before Christmas, noting in a phone interview with USNI News that, whereas in July for the working port visit “we came back in working uniform and we got to work, this time we’re going to have the whole homecoming with Santa Claus and the band and the radio station, and all the good stuff that comes with that.”

Boatswain’s Mate Seaman Dwayne Guthrie sands a bust of Harry S. Truman on the officers’ quarter deck aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) on Dec. 3, 2018. US Navy photo.

Truman and the strike group will remain on call upon returning home, as part of the sustainment phase of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan that requires the ships to remain at peak readiness in case they are called upon as a surge force or to deploy to an area where there is no strike group.

The units of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group that have departed 6th Fleet and returned back to U.S. Fleet Forces Command waters include: Truman, embarked squadrons of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG-60), Destroyer Squadron 28 leadership, and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) and USS Forrest Sherman (DDG-98).

  • Ed L

    Keep your opponent guessing

  • Epictetus

    The problem with “keeping your opponent guessing” is that you also keep the Sailors, and more importantly the families, guessing. When a CVN deploys, people sell cars, move out of apartments, cancel cell phone contracts, and move families across the country to be with their parents. This unpredictability causes a dramatic increase in the stress of the families, and therefore the service members.

    You can argue that this increased stress is acceptable for the benefits of keeping the “enemy” (whoever that is – I’m not sure) off balance. In my opinion, this sort of ingrained unpredictability, if instituted fleet-wide, will cause a dramatic decrease in both enlistments and retention within 5-10 years. This is an all-volunteer force and predictability is a key component of quality of life. When you combine this unpredictability with the new retirement system that allows (or even encourages) people to separate at any point, this will lead to a manning crisis.

    Also, the idea of being unpredictable in regard to CVN movements is a fallacy. Even if the 5500 crew members could keep quiet, the families, maintenance infrastructure, and local community (e.g., Norfolk, San Diego) would know at least weeks ahead of time that the CVN was leaving. I don’t see any possible way of preventing that.

    Again, that’s just my opinion, but having seen the havoc of multiple extended/delayed/cancelled CVN deployments first-hand, I think the unintended consequence of this policy, when combined with other factors (e.g., new retirement and improving economy) are going to be significant.