(Pictured: Commander, U.S. Central Command, U.S. Army Gen. John Abizaid, passes through rainbow side boys on the flight deck aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry
S. Truman (CVN 75). Carrier Air Wing Three (CVW-3) is embarked aboard Truman and is providing close air support and conducting intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance over Iraq. The Truman Carrier Strike Group
is on a regularly scheduled deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Ryan O'Connor (RELEASED)
By John Valceanu, American Forces Press Service
MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- They may be far away from the streets where ground troops are engaging insurgents and terrorists in direct combat, but Army Gen. John Abizaid told Sailors and Marines aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) that they are playing a crucial role in the global war on terrorism.
As head of U.S. Central Command, Abizaid is responsible for a region that includes the Middle East, central Asia and the Horn of Africa. He visited the aircraft carrier under way in the Persian Gulf Feb. 15 and spoke with members of the ship's crew and personnel of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3, which is serving aboard the ship.
"We need you sending your airplanes our way, wherever that way may be. We can't get the job done without you," Abizaid told a group of Sailors. "The Marine Corps-Navy team provides the flexibility to send combat-ready forces anywhere in the area quickly. This is a very connected theater with a common enemy and a common purpose."
Truman has a variety of aircraft aboard as part of the carrier air wing. These include fighter and attack jets, transport planes, electronic-warfare aircraft planes and refueling planes. The ship functions as the flagship of a carrier strike group that also includes destroyers, cruisers, a frigate and a supply ship.
Abizaid told Sailors and Marines aboard Truman that troops who are engaging the enemy on the ground depend on them and the air-support capabilities they bring to the fight.
"I can assure you that when Marines in Fallujah or Army Soldiers in Mosul are in contact with the enemy, they pray for you to come to their aid, and to come fast," Abizaid said. "The more efficient you are, the more American lives you can save and the more bad guys we can eliminate. It's literally a matter of life and death."
Though close-air support is very important to combat operations in the theater, the carrier strike group also takes part in vital maritime operations, according to Abizaid. These operations interdict the use of Persian Gulf waters to terrorists, discourage smuggling and piracy, and keep important oil shipping lanes open.
"Our whole way of life rests on this thing staying open. It is vital to America's interests and vital to the world economy," Abizaid said. "Thank you for what you are doing in this region. It has an impact on the world."
Truman and the other ships of the carrier strike group arrived in theater in mid-November 2004, relieving USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) and its embarked Air Wing 17.
Abizaid told the Sailors and Marines that he knows it's tough for them to be at sea for months at a time and to be away from their families, especially during the holidays, but it is important for them to understand that by serving in the gulf region, they are helping to keep America safe.
"I'd rather have it be tough for us, who volunteered to do this, than to have it be tough for our kids back at home
," Abizaid said. "We've taken an offensive against terrorists. By being out here, by having a presence in their territory, we are keeping them from coming into ours."
Capt. James P. Gigliotti, Truman commanding officer, said he and his Sailors are tackling the mission with zeal because they understand its importance.
"We're a small part of a much bigger effort, but I'm proud of our part," Gigliotti said. "The Sailors understand how important the mission is and they're very focused on it. Morale is very high."
The commander of Carrier Air Wing 3, Capt. Pat Rainey, said his aviators are keeping their sights on providing support to the troops on the ground.
"We are staying active, pressurizing the battlespace to drive the enemy toward our ground troops," Rainey said. "We think of the troops on the ground as our most important customers, and we do everything we can to look after them."