U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY -- The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSCSG) concluded its support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), March 22, after providing nearly four months of air and tactical support to allied troops on the ground in Afghanistan.The final mission, carried out by pilots from embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, launched off the flight deck of the strike group's flagship, Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). "We leave with our heads held high," said Capt. Dell Bull, commander of CVW-9. "We have not missed a single mission and [we] hit every target we aimed for on the first pass every time. The response we get back from the joint tactical air controllers on the ground has been tremendous. It's the work of all of us, the air wing, the strike group and the ship, that made that possible." The JCSCSG last supported OEF during its deployment in early 2012. The strike group returned to the area four months ahead of schedule in order to maintain the required forward carrier presence in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR). While supporting OEF from the Arabian Sea, Stennis and CVW-9 flew approximately 1,200 sorties amounting to more than 7,400 flight hours. "We had an EA-6B Prowler mission a few weeks ago where the troops we were defending reported that, had we not been there, they would not be alive today," said Bull. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group and embarked CVW-7 is relieving the JCSCSG as the carrier presence in the region. "CVW-7 starts flying tomorrow right on our heels," said Bull. "They will carry the torch and that gives us all a good feeling about heading home." The JCSCSG, consisting of Stennis, CVW-9, Destroyer Squadron 21 and guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG-53), is forward deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility promoting maritime security operations, theatre security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom.
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