Sailors man the rails as USS George Washington (CVN 73) returns to Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Aug. 23. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amanda S. Kitchner)

YOKOUSKA, Japan - The U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), flagship for the George Washington Strike Group (GWSG), returned from the first half of its 2013 patrol to its forward-operating location at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, Aug. 23.

George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, completed flight and damage control training exercises, strengthened its relationship with Australian Defence Forces (ADF), and conducted a five-day port visit to Brisbane, Australia during its two months at sea.

The U.S. Navy and Royal Australian Navy (RAN) participated in a professional exchange program in support of exercise Talisman Saber 2013 (TS13), where 45 RAN Sailors embarked George Washington to interact with crew members, learn ship capabilities and perform foreign liaison duties.

"The first half of the patrol went extremely well," said Master Chief Shaun Brahmsteadt, George Washington's command master chief. "TS13 went flawlessly; we had a good maintenance, material, management inspection, and Sailors have been getting their air and surface warfare pins, qualifications, ratings, and are doing well on exams."

George Washington and CVW 5 Sailors participated with their Australian hosts in numerous goodwill activities, such as 10 community service projects and three sport competitions while in Brisbane.

"Our relationship with Australia has always been good," said Brahmsteadt. "They provide military and logistic support in a key location and are good allies to have."

The ship also hosted Australian officials, civilians, and military members for 12 tours of the ship that highlighted the day-to-day operations of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.

"I believe George Washington has a good relationship with any port we go to," said Intelligence Specialist Seaman Amanda Inglis, from Fallon, Nev. "I think it's good for us to do these port visits because we are representing the U.S., which shows how we interact with the world."

Inglis, along with other Sailors aboard the ship, experienced their first taste of life at-sea during this half of the patrol.

"I like the ship life," said Inglis. "It is going pretty fast and I get to experience things no one back home gets to. I wouldn't trade it for anything. Finally, after all this time, I feel like a Sailor."

Ships within GWSG included: Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Preble (DDG 88), USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS Stethem (DDG 63), and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 53).

CVW 5, forward-deployed to Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi, Japan, consists of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 102, VFA 27, VFA 115 and VFA 195; Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 141; Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 115; Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30, Detachment 5; Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12; and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 77.

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

Line handlers stand by to assist the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) as the ship returns to Yokosuka, Aug. 23. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amanda S. Kitchner)