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Carrier Ike back in Norfolk following more than 200 consecutive days at sea

The aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower is back home — following more than 200 consecutive days at sea.

The Eisenhower and the guided-missile cruiser San Jacinto pulled into Norfolk Naval Station Aug. 9, wrapping up a seven-month tour in which they operated in U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet, the Navy said.

The guided-missile cruiser Vella Gulf, along with destroyers James E. Williams and Truxtun, are close behind and slated to arrive in Norfolk Monday.

Additionally, the service said Navy aviators from nine squadrons with Carrier Air Wing Three arrived at their respective home bases Naval Air Station Oceana and Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington and Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida on Aug. 6 and 7.

The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group initially departed Norfolk Naval Station on Jan. 17 to complete its Composite Unit Training Exercise in the Atlantic Ocean, then deployed in February. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Eisenhower and San Jacinto broke the Navy’s last record of 160 days at sea in June after being instructed to eliminate port visits.

“Words cannot express the admiration I have for each and every Sailor onboard,” Capt. Kyle Higgins, the commanding officer of the Eisenhower, said in a Navy news release. “These young men and women were thrust into a situation no one could have predicted and they responded as only Navy Sailors can — they adapted and overcame the adversity. I witnessed their excellence day in and day out as they accomplished repairs never before attempted at sea.”

“I am deeply humbled to have the privilege of working alongside them,” Higgins said. “They are what make our Navy the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen.”

Ships from the carrier strike group sailed more than 60,000 nautical miles during the deployment, and sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar, the Suez Canal, Strait of Hormuz and Strait of Bab el Mandeb while at sea.

Additionally, the more than 1,800 Navy aviators from Carrier Air Wing 3 who were deployed conducted hundreds of sorties in support of U.S. Central Command. The Navy said 166 sorties and 1,135 flight hours were flown in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, while 112 sorties and 492 flight hours in support of Strait of Hormuz transits and deliberate presence patrols.

“I could not have asked for greater effort from the CVW-3/IKE team during this challenging deployment,” said Capt. Trevor Estes, commander Carrier Air Wing 3, in a Navy news release. “The professionalism of my aircrew and the sailors sweating through seven months of no-port-visit operations was simply eye-watering,

“I truly hope that every member of this team has the opportunity they deserve to relax and enjoy time with family and friends post deployment,” Estes said. “In the end, I want the team to know how thankful I am for them every day.”

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