(Adm Terry Kraft is Roy Kraft’s son and present Commander of Enterprise Strike Group)March 6, 2011“Greetings Olympic Squadron! This is the first in what I hope will be monthly updates as we begin our 2011 deployment aboard the legendary USS ENTERPRISE. This should also be a good break from my Dad’s sea stories as he has headed down to Arizona for his annual pilgrimage. Hope for the Marines “springs” eternal! As for me, I have been the commander of the Enterprise Strike Group (Carrier Strike Group 12) since September of last year. I was very happy that Dad could attend the change of command. Needless to say I love my job! I have been well trained by warriors like Admiral Kelly throughout my career and hardly a day goes by when I don’t think of some of the advice and mentorship I have been able to keep in my head over the past 30 years.
We departed Norfolk on a very cold day, 13 January. We had a brand new ship’s Captain, a personal friend of mine named Dee Mewbourne, who would be getting underway on ENTERPRISE for the first time. We lit out from Norfolk for a three-day CQ to get our airwing (CVW-1) back up to speed and began our transit.
Our two port calls in the Med were both fantastic and the crew did a good job on liberty in both Lisbon, Portugal and Marmaris, Turkey. My wife Mary was able to link up with me in Lisbon and spent a month’s pay on porcelain items which now fill all the drawers in my stateroom quite nicely. As we pulled out of Marmaris, the scheduled portion of our cruise pretty much ended…17 days into it.
There is a great book called “The Age of the Unthinkable” which talks about “the new world disorder” and how what may look like a stable system scientifically can actually be on the verge of change at any time. I think we are witnessing that here from the decks of ENTERPRISE. Tunisia, Algeria and Albania were experiencing widespread unrest as we entered the Med. Lebanon was another area for our attention. Finally, and emphatically, Egypt erupted. All of you are well aware of the planning loads that happen on the ship as events begin to swirl. We had hardly finished getting ready for one tasking when another one would crop up. Our scheduled Suez transit began to look tenuous as we wondered who would be in charge if we went through?
As we watched the regime fall in Egypt, we prepared for our transit south. It ended up being uneventful as the military did a good job taking care of the waterway that provides a significant amount of income for Egypt. We were happy to be done with that and into Fifth Fleet! We expected to begin our support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM with our airwing in late February. Support of our troops (and those of many other nations) on the ground in Afghanistan is the high-end mission we train for all of our workup cycle. It demands a thorough understanding of the battlefield, the rules of engagement, and an absolute precise weapons delivery. To add to the fun – it is about a six hour mission with multiple air to air refuelings enroute. My “three hour butt” would have a tough time with that mission!
We never made to our station off Afghanistan. On the 17th of February we were made aware of a sailing vessel that had been pirated, the Quest. Four Americans were onboard and our mission was to host the all the personnel that would be involved in the negotiation and recovery of the hostages. Two other ships were working on the effort as well, our cruiser USS LEYTE GULF, and a ship left behind by the Lincoln Strike Group, the USS STERRETT. As we found out later, there were a total of 19 pirates aboard that 58 foot sloop. They were heading to Somalia. There are not a lot of details I can discuss, but I was amazed and impressed with how the crews of those three ships rose to the challenge. Over the next three days I listened as negotiators patiently worked with the criminals aboard Quest. The pirates were given every opportunity possible to end the standoff peacefully. On the fourth day, unexpectedly and without warning, a few of the pirates shot all four hostages. It was a sad day for all of us here who had given so much in support of the rescue attempt. We were proud to carry the remains of Scott and Jean Adam, Phyllis MacKay and Bob Riggle and perform a memorial ceremony on the flight deck as we transferred their remains to the COD. As Sailors do, they crafted handmade shadowboxes in our wood shop into which we placed the flags of each ship involved on that final day. It was a four day span of events I will never forget – and it renewed my strong desire to find a solution to this pirate mess.
We currently hold the 15 suspected pirates aboard ENTERPRISE. They will be transferred and face justice in the near future. I visit them regularly.The latest domino seems to now be Libya. Both Captain Mewbourne and I were on the ELDORADO CANYON raid of 1986 when we were flying A-6 Intruders so we get a bit of a chuckle as we again look at actions that may need to be taken as that country spirals down. As I type this, we sit in the Red Sea awaiting further tasking. I think it serves as an interesting example of how our carriers continue to be in demand. Whether they send us back to Fifth Fleet or through the Suez back to Sixth Fleet, we know we will be busy. We’ll be ready for it.
I’ve told the strike group that we are witnessing a change in the middle east the likes of which I have never seen. Oppressed groups are not fighting for “jihad”; they are fighting for some of the basic freedoms we hold so dear in largely secular movements. It is amazing to watch how the power of a determined group of people can start and sustain such sweeping changes in this region. It’s fascinating to have a front row seat!All the best, Krafty”Photo: US Navy / Photographer’s Mate Airman Kathleen GorbyFrom Jody & Russ Snyder posted online at the Association of Naval Aviation Olympic SquadronJody Snyder is a past SSCA Board Member and a dedicated SSCAer for many years. Jody and her husband Russ built their own boat and circumnavigated with their two sons many years ago. Thanks to Ginny for sharing!
Letter from Commander of Enterprise Strike Group on Aftermath of Quest Hijacking
March 8, 2011 by RussianRiver PR