By Ensign Abbas Bandukwala, USS Yorktown Public Affairs, and Stacey Byington, Naval Station Pascagoula Public Affairs
USS Yorktown (CG 48) will return home to Naval Station Pascagoula Aug. 17, after a successful six-month deployment with the USS Wasp (LHD 1) Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 2. Yorktown made key contributions to Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, and Market Time II in support of the global war on terrorism.
The crew dubbed this deployment their “Victory Lap” because it is Yorktown’s last scheduled deployment before decommissioning in December 2004, and is in keeping with the ship’s motto, “Victory is our Tradition.”
The ship, with embarked Helicopter Squadron Light (HSL) 42 Det. 2 from Mayport, Fla., set sail Feb. 17 from Pascagoula, and rendezvoused with the rest of the strike group off the coast of North Carolina three days later. Other ships with the strike group included the amphibious assault ship Wasp, amphibious transport dock ship USS Shreveport (LPD 12), amphibious dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41), guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul (DDG 74), and fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22).
Yorktown spent a short time in the Mediterranean Sea with a brief visit to Taranto, Italy. Several days later, the ship transited the Suez Canal into the Red Sea
for the first time in its 20-year history, and then into the Persian Gulf.
After reporting into the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility, the crew demonstrated its reputation for outstanding performance with a rescue on the high seas. A distress call was received from the burning oil tanker, Mt. Everton, that had collided with a fishing vessel in the Arabian Sea. The Yorktown crew responded immediately, coordinated the efforts of the ships in the area providing assistance, and conducted a search and rescue operation. After the Mt. Everton’s crew was rescued, Yorktown sent firefighting personnel in small boats to help extinguish the fire, and significantly contributed to the salvage of the tanker.
Yorktown spent two months in the Persian Gulf as the on-scene commander of maritime security operations, defending U.S. and coalition warships, and protecting Iraq’s Al Basra and Khawr Al Amaya oil terminals. These two Iraqi oil terminals are a vital part of Iraq’s economy and account for more than 80 percent of the oil exported out of Iraq.
Terrorists attempted an attack on these terminals with explosive-laden boats April 24. The attack on the terminals was successfully repulsed by coalition forces and Iraqi security personnel, with only minimal damage to the terminals. However, three boarding team members from USS Firebolt (PC 10) were killed in the attack.
Yorktown, who was steaming nearby, responded quickly and coordinated protection of the oil terminals with all available assets in the area. The ship’s actions prevented subsequent attacks and ensured maximum protection of the vital oil platform assets. To aid in their defense, U.S. Marine Corps personnel were permanently stationed on each oil terminal.
Commander, Middle East Force, Capt. Kurt Tidd and his staff embarked aboard Yorktown to command the task force. Yorktown supported the Marines by providing food and water daily, and other support services, such as showers and haircuts, to keep them combat ready. The ship and her embarked helicopter detachment continued to protect the Iraqi terminals until the end of May, successfully deterring any further attacks.
Yorktown commenced the exercise phase of her deployment in the beginning of June and participated in international exercises with the Oman, Egypt, Britain, France and Jordanian navies through mid-July. These exercises maintained strong international relationships between the United States and these countries, and improved shiphandling and warfighting skills.
Additionally, Yorktown conducted port visits to Muscat, Oman; Safaga, Egypt; and Aqaba, Jordan; in support of these exercises, hosting receptions aboard to welcome many of the influential civilian and military leaders.
After four months of high-paced fleet operations and exercises in the Middle East, Yorktown departed the 5th Fleet area of responsibility and entered the Mediterranean Sea in late July, commencing her westbound transit to Pascagoula. The ship’s hard work paid dividends with Mediterranean port visits to Souda Bay, Greece; Valetta, Malta; and Rota, Spain; during her transit through the Mediterranean.
Yorktown and her crew stopped briefly in Yorktown, Va., to offload ammunition in preparation for decommissioning in December, and embark family and friends for a 'tiger cruise,' before heading home.
"Crewmembers can justifiably be proud of their accomplishments to the global war on terrorism," said Cmdr. Steven Sloan, Yorktown's commanding officer. "The crew has met or exceeded every mission tasking during the six-month deployment to the Arabian Gulf and Mediterranean.
Yorktown has and continues to set the standard for operational excellence," he added. "The ship’s crew has demonstrated their motto 'Victory is Our Tradition,' and have proven their honor, courage, and commitment with a most successful 'Victory Lap.'"