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NORFOLK, Va. - Two F/A-18E “Super Hornet” squadrons with a total of 20 aviators returned to their home base at Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana in Virginia Beach, July 7, following their six-month deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations aboard the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71).
The two F/A-18E squadrons, the “Tomcatters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31 and “Golden Warriors” of VFA-87 embarked with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). More than 6,000 Sailors from Theodore Roosevelt Strike Group and embarked CVW 11 deployed Jan. 17 to conduct operations in the Indo-Pacific and maintain security and stability in the region.
VFA-31 and VFA-87 departed NAS Oceana in July 2019 and flew to San Diego to join CVW 11 aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
VFA-31 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Damon Loveless praised the accomplishments of his team. During the deployment VFA-31 logged more than 1,600 flight hours and completed I,047 sorties for an overall sortie completion rate of 98.2 percent.
“I was impressed by the resiliency shown in each Felix Sailor and the incredible support from the entire DoN enterprise that responded. We were extremely proud to get back to sea and operational, to continue to support 7th Fleet tasking,” said Loveless. “Each and every Tomcatter continuously demonstrated their pride, professionalism, and dedication throughout the entire deployment. I am both proud and honored to have the opportunity to lead such an outstanding group of young men and women.”
While deployed to the Indo-Pacific region, CVW-1 aircraft and the U.S. Marine Corps participated in the first evolution of Expeditionary Strike Force operations in the Philippine Sea, conducted a multitude of joint, high-end warfighting exercises with USS America (LHA 6), and their expeditionary strike groups. Additionally, after the Strike Group departed Guam, CVW-1 aircraft participated in two more ESF evolutions with the USS America Expeditionary Strike Force in the South China Sea.
Following the port visit to Vietnam, USS Theodore Roosevelt arrived in Guam for nearly two months respond to a coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak ultimately returning to sea on May 21.
The ship and embarked air wing returned to mission in U.S. 7th Fleet and participated in dual carrier operations with the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Carrier Strike Group. Both strike groups conducted a multitude of operations including air defense drills, sea surveillance, replenishments at sea, defensive air combat training, long-range strikes, coordinated maneuvers and other events.
VFA-87 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Jason Dalby reflected on the diligence and hard work of the crew while deployed aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt.
“VFA-87 and CVW-11 conducted an unprecedented field carrier landing practice detachment at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, in the middle of deployment to recertify our pilots for carrier qualification after two months out of the cockpit while in quarantine on Guam. To my knowledge, this monumental challenge has never been achieved before in the history of naval aviation,” said Dalby.