By MCSN Emily Blair
USS Harry S Truman Public Affairs

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3, embarked on board aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HST CSG), completed its final sortie in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), March 19.

CVW-3 flew more than 2,900 sorties and more than 16,400 flight hours in support of OEF beginning Aug. 27, 2013. 

Lt. Ian Higgins, assigned to the "Swordsmen" of Strike Fighter Squadron 32, took part in the final combat sortie, flying an F/A-18F Super Hornet. He flew 27 OEF missions, totaling nearly 170 flight hours.

"It has been an honor supporting the troops on the ground," said Higgins.

"Launching our final mission was like any other day, we had to remain focused. Finishing our support of OEF may mean that we are closer to going home, but we still had to make sure the troops on the ground can make it home safely too."

Sailors and Marines performed maintenance, and launched and recovered aircraft daily throughout seven months of OEF support. Capt. George Wikoff, commander, CVW-3, said teamwork was the key to successful OEF operations. 

"It begins and ends with teamwork," said Wikoff.

"We executed our missions safely and just as we practiced during our pre-deployment exercises. To do that, every Sailor and Marine, every maintainer and every pilot, worked together. That teamwork is what enabled us to provide continuous support to coalition warfighters on the ground in Afghanistan."

Wikoff said that while teamwork within the air wing was key, teamwork between the air wing and Harry S. Truman was equally as crucial.

"Team Truman was a major reason we were so successful," he said.

"They're the ones that launch and recover our aircraft and work non-stop to ensure the ship is ready to execute each day's air plan. Without them, we don't launch, and the warfighters don't get the support they need."

Capt. Bob Roth, Truman's commanding officer, echoed Wikoff in saying the teamwork between Truman and CVW-3 was the driving force behind successful support for OEF.

"Aircraft carriers are a powerful tool of diplomacy and power projection," said Roth. "We operated seamlessly with Carrier Air Wing 3 to provide combat air power from the sea. The understanding, respect, and unconditional mutual support between this ship and air wing are what I value above all else. Together, we are unstoppable. This teamwork is what allowed us to support the warfighters on the ground when they needed us to protect them and help them accomplish their mission." 

HST CSG Commander Rear Adm. Kevin Sweeney praised both CVW-3 and Truman for the safe and successful execution of OEF flight operations.

"Providing support to the coalition troops on the ground in Afghanistan was one of the main mission areas for us," he said. "I could not be more proud of our young Sailors and Marines. They executed precision, professionalism, and lethality when called upon. In doing so, we also helped build trust and confidence with our partners and allies throughout the region."

Truman and CVW-3 are scheduled to be relieved by USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) and CVW-8 later this month.

CVW-3, based at NAS Oceana, is embarked on Truman with its eight Navy and Marine Corps aircraft squadrons: VFA-32 "Swordsmen," VFA-37 "Ragin' Bulls," VFA -105 "Gunslingers," Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 "Checkerboards," Airborne Early Warning Squadron 126 "Seahawks," Electronic Attack Squadron 130 "Zappers," Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 7 "Dusty Dogs," in addition to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 74 "Swamp Foxes" based at NAS Jacksonville.