Navy Airman James A. Heydenburg, son of June M. Durant of Grand Rapids and Jeffery A. Heydenburg of Rockford, and more than 7, 500 sailors of the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group relieved the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group as Commander, Task Force (CTF) 50 and launched its first aircraft sorties from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
This marks the fourth deployment for the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) San Diego, Calif., commissioned in July 2003, and its return to Afghanistan. More than 5, 000 sailors, 20 percent of whom are women, serve aboard USS Ronald Reagan and hail from all 50 U.S. states and 40 nations.
Operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations are focused on reassuring regional partners of the United States’ commitment to security, which promotes stability and global prosperity. The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group has operated within the U.S. 5th Fleet since March.
USS Ronald Reagan is joined by the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62). Other Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group ships will support maritime security operations (MSO) while deployed to the region. The guided-missile destroyers USS Decatur (DDG 73), USS Howard (DDG 83) and USS Gridley (DDG 101) and the guided-missile frigate USS Thach (FFG 43) will help deter destabilizing activities and ensure a lawful maritime order in the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden and Red Sea.
The squadrons of CVW-14 include the “Redcocks” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 22, the “Fist of the Fleet” of VFA-25, the “Stingers” of VFA-113, the “Eagles” of VFA-115, the “Black Eagles” of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 113, the “Cougars” of Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VAQ) 139 and the “Black Knights” of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 4. A detachment from Fleet Logistics Squadron (VRC) 30 is providing logistics support to the carrier.
Heydenburg is a 2006 graduate of Rockford High School, and joined the Navy in September 2008.