By Petty Officer 2nd Class Jamal McNeill, USS Ronald Reagan Public Affairs
YOKOSUKA, Japan – The Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), returned to Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, Aug. 9, after completing a scheduled three-month patrol.
During the patrol, Ronald Reagan participated in exercise Talisman Saber 2017, designed to enhance U.S.-Australian military interoperability through a variety of maritime, land and air operations scenarios. The ship also conducted dual-carrier operations with USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and Carrier Strike Group 1.
“The crew of Ronald Reagan, as well as the carrier strike group, had the opportunity to accomplish a lot this patrol,” said Capt. Buzz Donnelly, Ronald Reagan’s commanding officer. “Any opportunity we have to exercise with our allies enhances our interoperability and makes us more effective overall in maintaining the security and stability in this region.”
Ronald Reagan departed Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, May 16, to kick off the 2017 Indo-Asia-Pacific patrol. The ship’s major exercise during the summer patrol was Talisman Saber 2017, which took place in waters off the coast of Australia. Talisman Saber included more than 33,000 U.S. and Australian personnel and featured 21 ships, including the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, and more than 200 joint aircraft.
“Talisman Saber was an excellent opportunity for Sailors from both navies to train together and enhance our collective maritime capabilities,” said Donnelly. “Our ability to integrate seamlessly with our Australian Defence Force partners is integral to our combined efforts to support peace and stability in the region.”
Along with Talisman Saber 2017, Ronald Reagan joined the long line of aircraft carriers to conduct dual-carrier operations in the Western Pacific, when it participated in dual-carrier operations with Carl Vinson, June 1. The dual-carrier operations included the Ronald Reagan Strike Group, consisting of Ronald Reagan, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67), guided-missile destroyers USS Barry (DDG 52), USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), USS McCampbell (DDG 85) and USS Mustin (DDG 89) from Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15; and the Carl Vinson Strike Group consisting of Carl Vinson, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) and guided-missile destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112).
“Conducting dual aircraft carrier operations with USS Carl Vinson provided the opportunity for us to exercise integrating the immense capabilities of two strike groups,” said Donnelly. “It also vividly represented the commitment our Navy – operating alongside our friends and allies, has to the security and stability of this region,”
During the patrol, Ronald Reagan promoted 259 Sailors from the advancement exam and another 40 through the Meritorious Advancement Program.
The ship also honored the late Julius “Harry” Frey, a Battle of Coral Sea and USS Lexington survivor, by spreading his ashes in the waters where Lexington sank during WWII.
More than 60 midshipmen embarked on Ronald Reagan during the summer patrol. The midshipmen where aboard in two groups, one for 30 days and another for two weeks, as part of their “summer cruise,” designed to give them the experience of living aboard a ship as an enlisted Sailor or officer before they commission as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps.
Lt. Eric Hinz, a former midshipman, who is embarked on Ronald Reagan as a pilot for Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 2, explained the importance of midshipmen getting the opportunity to come aboard the ship.
“Being a midshipman on a cruise gives you that experience of peeking through the shades and seeing what the future really does have in store for you,” said Hinz. “It also gives the opportunity to pick through different leadership styles and see what they like and don’t like while trying to emulate that.”
Donnelly explained the appreciation he has for the crew’s hard work and focus to accomplish the mission while on patrol.
“I’m very proud of the performance of the crew during this patrol,” said Donnelly. “This patrol, the Ronald Reagan crew performed exceptionally. We covered an extensive amount of sea in a short amount of time and I’m very proud of the operations we conducted with our friends and allies.”