The ships, aircraft and over 7,000 sailors of the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group are expected to arrive back home on Monday after dropping a record-setting amount of ordnance in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, officials say.
If they arrive home on Aug. 21, they will have been deployed 212 days, or exactly seven months, since the cold, foggy January day they slipped into the Atlantic and headed off to war.
While deployed, the strike group served in the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility, conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and missions flying in support of troops fighting the Islamic State group over Iraq and Syria.
The group conducted flight operations in both the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf that included 11,347 sorties, over 1,900 of which were combat missions, while logging 30,873 flight hours — 12,603 of those in actual combat.
Flying from the Bush, the aircrews dropped 1,717 pieces of ordnance, including Joint Direct Attack Munitions. These numbers set post-Operation Desert Storm records for a carrier and air wing team, according to a press release from Fleet Forces Command.
The group is commanded by Rear Adm. Kenneth Whitesell and is made up of the carrier, as well as Carrier Air Wing Eight and Destroyer Squadron 22.
The strike group flagship, the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush, is commanded by Capt. Will Pennington and will return to Norfolk with the the guided-missile destroyer Truxtun.
Carrier Air Wing Eight, led by Capt. Jim McCall, returns to home bases that include Naval Station Norfolk and Oceana, as well as Whidbey Island, Jacksonville and Lemoore air stations between Aug. 19 and 20.
Two other cruisers, the Philippine Sea and Hue City, return to their home port in Mayport, Florida, on Aug. 19 and 21, respectively, Navy officials said.
Early deployers that cruised with the strike group, the destroyers Mahan, Cole and Laboon, returned to Norfolk in June and July. Other ships are still deployed, including the cruiser Leyte Gulf and destroyer James E. Williams, both of which deployed independently from the strike group in March and May, respectively.
Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.