MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- Marines and Sailors from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31 returned from a six-month deployment aboard the USS Harry S. Truman, Sunday and Monday. The Silver Eagles and Stingers were a part of Carrier Air Wing 3 deployed to the 5th Fleet area of responsibility providing a forward presence and support in the Global War on Terror.
Squadrons aboard the Truman provided close air support and conducted intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions over Iraq after relieving the USS John F. Kennedy in the Persian Gulf. During the tour, the Truman also assisted humanitarian efforts while in the port of Manama, Bahrain. Marines and Sailors volunteered at a local school there, helping with construction and renovations.
On Jan. 30, the Silver Eagles provided on-call air support for coalition and Iraqi forces during the Iraqi elections.
“It (was) a huge step for Iraqis,” said Capt. Benjamin Taylor, pilot, VMFA-115. “We went there to give them every bit of support we could.”
That support came mostly with air presence provided by the Truman’s pilots. Though the election showed an increase of air activity, the major objective for U.S. air operations over the Middle East was presence. The squadrons aboard the carrier stepped up the tempo of their mission to support security efforts for the elections.
“We (flew) over populated areas in Iraq, letting people of Iraq know we are there to support them,” Taylor said. “As well as to let insurgents know that if they try to harm people, that we will be there for the Iraqi people, as well as our friendlies on the ground.”
The Truman’s Sailors and Marines launched and recovered 32 sorties ranging from surveillance to strike fighter aircraft on election day. Truman’s aircraft flew 176 flight hours and conducted almost 16 straight hours of flight deck operations.
“It (was) rewarding,” Taylor said. “We will be able to look back 30 years from now and know that the people on the boat, the pilots, as well as the Marines and soldiers on the ground were part of this.”
On March 19, the Truman concluded operations in support of OIF, was relieved by the USS Carl Vinson and began the journey home. The CVW-3 squadrons aboard the Truman launched 2,577 sorties, totaling nearly 13,000 flight hours in support of OIF and maritime security operations in the Persian Gulf.
The Silver Eagles and Stingers returned to their friends and family in Beaufort, ready to relax and reflect a job well done.
“I (was) very proud of the close cooperation and esprit de corps on the ship, air wing and throughout the strike group,” said Rear Adm. Michael C. Tracy, commander, Carrier Strike Group 10. “I know for a fact that the troops on the ground appreciated our ability to provide close air support.”