By USS John C. Stennis Public Affairs
USS JOHN C. STENNIS, At sea – The USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSSG) began conducting missions over Afghanistan, Feb. 23.
Operating in the North Arabian Sea, the Stennis (CVN 74) launched an F/A-18C Hornet from the "Death Rattlers" of Marine Strike Fighter Squadron 323 (VMFA-323), beginning the strike group's first combat mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The Stennis deployed from its homeport of Bremerton, Wash., Jan. 16, and arrived in U.S. 5th Fleet's area of operations (AOO) with JCSSG, Feb. 19, ready to execute their mission.
"Our current mission is to provide air support to the coalition forces on the ground in Afghanistan," said the Stennis' Commanding Officer, Capt. Brad Johanson. "There are currently 32,000 coalition security force personnel from 37 different countries providing assistance to the government of Afghanistan in stabilizing their nation. We are providing an opportunity for the government of Afghanistan to establish a secure foundation for democracy in their nation."
Commander, Carrier Air Wing 9 (CVW-9), Capt. Sterling Gilliam, added that although the "Death Rattlers " were the first squadron off the flight deck, all the squadrons of CVW-9 participated in Friday's mission.
"These missions will be in direct support of our coalition ground forces in Afghanistan," said Gilliam. "CVW-9's air power will support coalition ground forces in the ongoing efforts to bring security and stability to the people of Afghanistan."
Recognizing that success in the region will be a direct result of the whole team effort; Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn, Commander of Carrier Strike Group 3, had this message for the men and women aboard the Stennis.
"I expect everyone in the strike group to be fully prepared to conduct combat operations," said Quinn. "I am 100 percent confident that every Sailor and Marine in the strike group will act with honor, commitment and courage throughout our time in 5th Fleet."
JCSSG is currently supporting Operation Enduring Freedom as well as conducting maritime security operations (MSO). MSO set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. MSO deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or as a transport for personnel, weapons and other material.
The JCSSG is comprised of Carrier Air Wing 9, Destroyer Squadron 21 (DESRON 21), Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54), guided-missile destroyers USS Preble (DDG 88) and USS O'Kane (DDG 77), and the fast combat support ship USNS Bridge (T-AOE 10).
The squadrons of CVW-9 include the "Black Knights" of Strike Fighter Squadron 154 (VFA-154), "Blue Diamonds" of VFA-146, the "Argonauts" of VFA-147, the "Death Rattlers" of Marine Strike Fighter Squadron 323 (VMFA-323), the "Yellowjackets" of Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 138 (VAQ-138), "Golden Hawks" of Carrier Early Warning Squadron 112 (VAW-112), "Top Cats" of Sea Control Squadron 31 (VS-31), "Eightballers" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 8 (HS-8) and "Providers" of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 30 (VRC-30).