George Washington Strike Group Reflects on 40 Years in Japan

George Washingtnon Strike Group Reflects on 40 Years in Japan

The USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group observed its 40th anniversary of the first U.S. Navy aircraft carrier and carrier air wing operating from Japan, Oct. 5.

In 1973, aircraft carrier USS Midway (CV 41) and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 arrived in Japan with missions to stabilize the security and international peace of the region.

“I think the movement of USS Midway as the forward deployed carrier and Carrier Air Wing 5 as a forward deployed air wing to Yokosuka and Atsugi respectively was a watershed moment of the U.S.,” said Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, commander, Battle Force 7th Fleet. “It was a peace-time forward deployment in a foreign country. If you look at the history of U.S. deployments at that time, they had generally been associated with wartime maneuvers and operations. This was recognition that forward deployed forces have a presence factor, which is to say the value of the forces is as much the fact that they are present than the idea that they bring a specific warfighting capability. Our presence has a deterring effect on adversaries and our presence has an assuring effect on our allies and partners.”

Between 1973 and 1991, CVW-5 and Midway made several deployments throughout the Western Pacific, South China Sea, Indian Ocean and Northern Pacific to deter the Soviet threat in those areas. The most prominent deployments occurred in 1984, when CVW-5 completed 111 continuous days on guard in the North Arabian Sea, standing watch in the Strait of Hormuz to ensure the sustained flow of critical oil to our partners in Japan and Western Europe.

August of 1991 marked the first time Midway departed Yokosuka en route to Pearl Harbor for an air wing swap with aircraft carrier USS Independence (CV 62). Independence and CVW-5 returned to the Arabian Gulf in 1992 to participate in Operation Southern Watch.

USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) officially relieved Independence as the regional aircraft carrier August 1998. History was made ten years later as Kitty Hawk was relieved by nuclear-powered Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73).

The decision to have a nuclear powered aircraft carrier forward deployed to Yokosuka was a mutual agreement between the U.S. and Japan.

“With the carrier forward deployed, it also serves as an important reminder to our partners in the region that we support them and that our presence is forward. It shows that we care about our treaties, our alliances in support of our regional partners,” said Capt. Greg Fenton, commanding officer of George Washington.

“The size of the Pacific Ocean is a very important factor. It causes the necessity for us to be in this vicinity,” said Capt. Michael Boyle, CVW-5 commander. “We’re living with our host nation, so not only are we closer to where we might be needed, but we’re making friends and building a relationship.”

George Washington and her embarked air wing CVW-5 shifted colors for their first underway together in 2009. During the underway period, they participated in a Talisman Saber exercise with the Australians followed by a port call to Manila, Philippines.

“I’m passionate about our commitment here. This 40 years represents 40 years of support to our principal allies, in northeast of Asia, Japan and Republic of Korea,” said Montgomery. “This is 40 years of maritime commitment to the region. What we may have recently, strategically rebalanced some level of effort, there has been a strong 40 year commitment from the United States Navy. It’s been anchored here in Yokosuka and Astugi.”

Whether it is continued support of presence and deterrence in the Western Pacific, humanitarian assistance or a new threat that has yet to be determined, the George Washington Strike Group is ready for the next challenge.

George Washington, its embarked air wing CVW-5, and escort ships provide a combat-ready force that protects the collective maritime interest of the U.S. and its partners and allies in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Press Release, October 04, 2013; Image: Navy