By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
WASHINGTON, Sept. 25, 2006 – U.S. Navy forces in the Arabian Gulf have been contributing to the war on terror by conducting maritime security operations and providing support to troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, a Navy strike group commander said today. Speaking to reporters from the USS Enterprise in the northern Arabian Sea, Navy Rear Admiral Raymond Spicer, commander of the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group, said his unit has been putting in long hours on many different missions in support of the war on terror.
"Whether Enterprise strike group is protecting coalition troops on the ground, conducting planned strikes on known terrorist sites, or providing airborne command and control for our coalition partners, we have demonstrated our ability to operate as a combat-ready naval force capable of sustained combat operations, deterring aggression, preserving freedom of the seas, and promoting peace and security," Spicer said.
The Enterprise strike group has been deployed in support of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom for almost five months. The Navy-Marine Corps team conducts maritime security operations to ensure security for commercial shipping and Iraq's two oil terminals in the northern Arabian Gulf, Spicer said. The security operations are also important to the ground efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, as they help set the conditions for security and stability in the region, he said.
During June and July, Enterprise aircraft launched 781 aircraft sorties in direct support of troops participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom and 237 aircraft sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Spicer said. Since the end of August, Enterprise has launched nearly 300 aircraft sorties and expended about 90 precision weapons in support of NATO forces and other coalition troops in Afghanistan, he said. Enterprise aircraft also continue to support Operation Iraqi Freedom from an air base in Iraq, he said.
Over Iraq, the primary focus of Enterprise's efforts has been on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, Spicer said. The land-based aircraft contingent there focuses on ISR efforts, as well as counter-improvised explosive device efforts and close-air support, he said.
In Afghanistan, Enterprise aircraft have been more actively supporting troops on the ground because of the increased fighting there between NATO, coalition and Taliban forces, Spicer said. Spicer's aircraft have been supporting operations in Afghanistan since September, he said, and their missions change each day, depending on what the situation on the ground is like.
"It varies day to day, and it depends on what the forces on the ground are seeing," he said. "Really, the focus of our efforts has been to protect the forces on the ground that are receiving fire from the Taliban."
Enterprise aircraft missions over Iraq and Afghanistan occasionally encounter surface-to-air fire, but the crews are trained and ready to respond, Spicer said.
Sailors and Marines from the Enterprise strike group have been working long hours and have made critical contributions to the war on terror, Spicer said. Throughout their deployment, the troops have stayed motivated because they see the role they play in the war and the support they provide to the troops on the ground, he said.
"They're committed; they're motivated; they're proud to be contributing to maritime security operations and the war on terror," he said. "I think the American people would be proud too if they knew just how hard these sailors and Marines have been working and just how tremendously effective they've been at what they've been doing."