Saturday, November 22, 2008

George Washington Carrier Strike Group Returns to Japan

An SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the "Warlords" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 51, approaches the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) November 19 after a photo exercise at the culmination of ANNUALEX 2008. ANNUALEX is a bilateral exercise between the U.S. Navy and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brendan Morgan.)

Focus on Defense:

YOKOSUKA, Japan, Nov. 22, 2008 -- The George Washington Carrier Strike Group (GW CSG) returned to Japan Nov. 21 after a successful two-month deployment to the Western Pacific Ocean, which included stops in Busan, Republic of Korea and Guam as well as a major exercise with the Japan Maritime and Air Self-Defense Forces.

The GW CSG is commanded by Rear Adm. Richard B. Wren embarked on the flagship USS George Washington (CVN 73) and includes Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, Destroyer Squadron 15, USS Shiloh (CG 67) and USS Cowpens (CG 63).

Most of CVW 5 returned to Naval Air Facility Atsugi Nov. 20 with the last aircraft returning as scheduled the next day. Also returning to Yokosuka were USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), USS Stethem (DDG 63), and USS Mustin (DDG 89).

"These past two months have been enormously productive and rewarding," said Wren. "USS George Washington's immediate participation in several exercises and events is a clear message of the dedication we have to security and stability in this region."

The GW CSG's first stop on this deployment was Busan, Republic of Korea (ROK) to participate in the ROK armed forces' 60th anniversary. Sailors also enjoyed new cultural experiences and volunteered for community relations projects.

After a couple of weeks of intense air wing and shipboard training, the GW CSG's next stop was Guam, where Sailors enjoyed rest and relaxation.

GW also participated in ANNUALEX 20G with the Japan Maritime and Air Self-Defense Forces, the largest bilateral exercises between the two countries. This was GW's first ANNUALEX after replacing the USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) as the Navy's only forward deployed aircraft carrier this summer.

"ANNUALEX was an amazing opportunity to enhance cooperation and understanding with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force for coordinated bilateral operations in the defense of Japan," said Wren. "Throughout these years of training and operating together in an exercise such as this, we have continued to foster our relationship and mutual professional respect for one another."

"We had a tremendously successful at-sea period during the last two months while we got to train with and learn about some of our closest allies in the region," said GW's Commanding Officer Capt. J. R. Haley. "Now we are very much looking forward to experiencing our new home and meeting the wonderful people of Japan after our short stay back in September."

(Report by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Olivia Giger, USS George Washington Public Affairs.)

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