YOKOSUKA, Japan - The George Washington Carrier Strike Group (GWCSG) arrived at its forward operating location of Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, upon completion of its 2014 patrol, Nov. 25.
Throughout the 2014 Patrol the GWCSG was made up of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam (CG 54), USS Shiloh (CG 67) and USS Cape St. George (CG 71); Arleigh-burke class guided-missile destroyers USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), USS Stethem (DDG 63), USS Mustin (DDG 89), USS Pinckney (DDG 91), USS Halsey (DDG 97), USS Kidd (DDG 100) and USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108).
“Returning home is a great chance for Sailors to enjoy some down time after the hard work they put in to this year’s patrol,” said George Washington Command Master Chief Jason Haka.
GWCSG conducted three major training exercises during this year’s patrol. During the first half of patrol, naval forces from India, Japan and the United States participated in exercise Malabar 2014, a complex, high-end war fighting exercise to advance multinational maritime relationships and mutual security issues. In September, GWCSG participated in exercise Valiant Shield, which included USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), 19 surface combatants, more than 200 aircraft and 18,000 personnel from the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marine Corps to focus on the integration of joint training among U.S. forces.
Just before the end of the patrol, GWCSG operated alongside their Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force counterparts during Keen Sword 15, a bilateral field training exercise.
“Integrating into the strike group and learning everyone’s abilities and capabilities during Keen Sword was my highlight of this patrol,” said Rear Adm. John Alexander, commander, Battle Force 7th Fleet, who took command Oct. 5. “This was the first time I have participated in the exercise. I thought all units in the strike group did enormously well and we worked extremely well with our Japanese counterparts.”
GWCSG conducted six good-will port visits in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region; Hong Kong; Singapore; Busan, Republic of Korea; Sasebo, Japan and Guam. They also hosted a reception while anchored in Manila, Philippines, and participated in a community relations (COMREL) project with Children International in Quezon City, Philippines. During those port visits, Strike group Sailors participated in more than 40 COMREL projects.
“These projects help the people in the cities we visit to understand the Navy’s role in building and strengthening partnerships throughout the Asia-Pacific region,” said Lt. j.g. Cole Yoos, a chaplain aboard George Washington. “They offer an incredible opportunity to tangibly give back to the people who provide a beautiful and inviting welcome to our Sailors.”
This patrol also facilitated the change of command for Commander, Task Force 70, bidding farewell to Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery and welcoming Rear Adm. Alexander. The ship welcomed a new executive officer and command master chief and will soon hold a change of command for Capt. Greg Fenton, George Washington’s commanding officer.
“This is my last patrol as George Washington’s commanding officer,” said Fenton. “It has been an honor serving among some of the best Sailors in the Navy and I couldn’t be more proud of the way the crew performed during the 2014 patrol.”
George Washington will undergo a planned maintenance period for material condition upkeep to maintain mission readiness. Aligning with the holiday season this return affords Sailors with time to spend with loved ones.
“As we return to Japan, it’s important to be with family and friends,” said Alexander. “We are a long way from home, so during our time in port, it’s important that we share it with people that are important to us and be thankful for all the good things in our lives.”
GWCSG provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.