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ARABIAN GULF - John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCS CSG) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 launched the Navy's final air sortie over Iraq Dec. 18, effectively ending naval support for Operation New Dawn.
The final command and control mission for U.S. forces over Iraq was flown by an E-2C Hawkeye from the "Golden Hawks" of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 112.
The crew of five launched from Stennis at 7:32 a.m. and returned at 11:04 a.m.
"I think all of us went up to the flight deck focused on executing our assigned mission," said Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Reynolds, a pilot aboard the last flight. "We knew that we might be the crew to fly the last mission over Iraq. As always, we stayed focused on completing the mission we were assigned. After confirmation that we were the last, I realized I was part of something pretty special."
According to Rear Adm. Craig Faller, commander, JCS CSG, the mission came after two decades of combat missions flown in support of operations Desert Storm, Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom and finally, New Dawn.
"Navy air presence has been absolutely essential to Operation New Dawn, and the overall military mission in Iraq," said Faller.
Although the Navy's air support mission in Iraqi airspace has drawn to a close, Navy airpower continues supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan as well as maritime security operations in the region.
Carrier strike groups will continue to maintain a forward presence in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with regional partners while deterring aggressors, ensuring freedom of the seas and regional security and stability.
"I believe that John C. Stennis and Nimitz class carriers are the world's pre-eminent arbitrators of peace and stability," said Capt. Ronald Reis, commanding officer of John C. Stennis.
Stennis departed from its homeport of Bremerton, Wash. July 25, and has been conducting maritime security operations in the 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operation, and directly supported operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom.
In addition to Stennis and CVW 9, JCS CSG is comprised of guided missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), and Destroyer Squadron 21 which consists of guided missile destroyers USS Kidd (DDG 100), USS Dewey (DDG 105), USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and USS Pinckney (DDG 91).
U.S. 5th Fleet encompasses 2.5 million square miles of water and includes the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean.