Thursday, July 2, 2009

USS George Washington Preps for First Australian Port Visit

In this May 2009 file photo, an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the "Royal Maces" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 27 launches from the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) as an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the "Diamondbacks" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 102 waits to launch on the opposite catapult. George Washington, the Navy's only permanently forward deployed aircraft carrier. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John J. Mike.)

Focus on Defense:

FREMANTLE, Australia, July 2, 2009 -- USS George Washington (CVN 73), the Navy's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier, anchored off the coast of Fremantle, Australia, as the USS Cowpens (CG 63) steamed into port July 2 to begin a scheduled five-day port visit.

This is GW's first Australian port visit in its nearly 17-year history and the first port visit of GW's inaugural summer deployment since replacing the USS Kitty Hawk last September. The ship, along with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 and their combined crew of nearly 5,000 Sailors departed their forward-deployed port at Yokosuka, Japan, June 10.

The Aegis guided-missile cruiser, Cowpens, also known as the "Thundering Herd," was commissioned in 1991. Her primary mission is to provide air-defense to the George Washington Carrier Strike Group.

"As the Navy's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier, we look forward to this visit and to our first opportunity to work with our Australian allies," said GW Commanding Officer Capt. David A. Lausman.

"This part of our summer deployment operationalizes the chief of naval operations' global maritime strategy and partnerships as we move throughout the expansive Seventh Fleet Area of Responsibility. The initial acquaintances and professional relationships we make benefit all concerned. Together, we improve stability, understanding and cooperation with our partner nations."

Lausman pointed out that more than 300 GW/CVW-5 Sailors plan to use their liberty time by volunteering at one of 14 community relations (COMREL) projects.

"These projects remain the most sought-after and popular events among the 5,000-plus combined crew of GW/CVW-5," he said.

Projects include cleaning, maintenance and painting work at a variety of locations throughout Fremantle and nearby Perth, including the Princess Margaret Hospital, Perth Hebrew Congregation, a Salvation Army rehabilitation center, Perth Zoo, Cohunu Koala Park and other animal refuges.

"I think these Sailors will greatly benefit from taking part, and it says a lot about them as Sailors taking time to volunteer, out of a spirit of cooperation and goodwill," said Lt. Cmdr. David Yang, GW chaplain and COMREL coordinator.

The ship's Morale, Welfare and Recreation division has scheduled 18 different trips and tours to help Sailors make the most of their visit while enjoying the distinct sights, sounds and tastes of western Australia.

Tour options include: a trip to Caversham Wildlife Park and Nambung National Park, a tour of wineries throughout the Swan Valley, mountain biking on the Munda Biddi Trail and scuba-diving at Rottnest Island.

"For a majority of the GW crew, who brought the ship to Yokosuka from Norfolk last fall, this is their first visit to Australia," Lausman said. "I know our Sailors are looking forward to experiencing the rich culture and interacting with the friendly citizens of Australia during our brief stay."

(Report by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dave Reynolds.)

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