mand fired up about getting to do
the job that they get the privilege to
do. There are some big responsibilities on the strategic level about flying
in Afghanistan and operating in the
Fifth Fleet [area of responsibility].
Trying to effectively communicate
that down to the lowest level so that,
when we give them the keys to the
car and they go away for six hours,
we have every degree of confidence
that they’re going to execute the mission in alignment with higher headquarters guidance — armed conflict,
rules of engagement, tactical directive — [is one challenge]. We are
asking a lot of these junior officers.
Ensuring that we were good stewards with the nation’s treasure presented some challenges: making sure
that we flew exactly what we needed
to and not necessarily more because
we were an extended deployment
and we wanted to make sure we had
the assets, the flight hours and the
funding available to do what we
were required to do and do it safely
[Another challenge was] integration of the entire
strike group with the multiple missions and responsibilities we had. OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom] is
ridiculously hard and, from the air wing and squadron
commander perspective, there is nothing more important than supporting our ground forces in Afghanistan.
I don’t think that focus should necessarily change. But
there are competing interests and it’s a challenge to
manage those on a daily basis.
The final challenge for us, [after five months of a
planned six-month deployment with a May 2 return
date], we were extended for about a month-and-a-half
and then we got another extension that took us out
through Aug. 8. Just the uncertainty both at the Sailor
level as well as the officer level and, most importantly, the
family level presented some challenges. It was those 16
XOs and COs who led their squadrons exceedingly well
that allowed us to be relatively successful in that realm.
Capt. David Silkey, commander, Carrier Air Wing Two, holding the flag at right, gathers with his air wing’s commanding officers (COs), and the commanders of Carrier
Strike Group 9 and the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, aboard Lincoln in the Arabian
Gulf to mark the final day of Lincoln Carrier Strike Group operations over Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom July 9. From the left are: Cmdr.
Brent C. Gaut, CO of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 77; Cmdr. Christopher
G. Bailey, CO of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12; Cmdr. Stephen A. Flaherty,
CO of Electronic Attack Squadron 131; Cmdr. Robert E. Loughran, CO of Strike
Fighter Squadron 151; Capt. John D. Alexander, CO, USS Abraham Lincoln; Rear
Adm. Troy M. Shoemaker, commander, Carrier Strike Group 9; Silkey; Capt. Louis
J. Schager, CO of Strike Fighter Squadron 34; Cmdr. James S. Bates, CO of Strike
Fighter Squadron 2; Cmdr. Jeremy D. Brunn, CO of Strike Fighter Squadron 137;
and Cmdr. Paul M. Dale, CO of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 116.
How has the CVW changed over your career?
SILKEY: With the exception of the EA-6B Prowler, every
single platform has gone through major modifications or
has been replaced: The F- 14 with the F/A- 18 Super
Hornet. The SH-60s with the MH-60s, both [MH-60S]
“Sierras” and [MH-60R] “Romeos.” Command and con-
trol nodes — i.e., Link 16 — the ability to communicate
positions of aircraft and other pictures on the surface
space electronically is significant. Communication suites
have changed. Full-motion video that helicopters are
able to provide the strike group commander in his battle
watch space is remarkable. Laser/[Global Positioning
System]-guided munitions. Our sortie completion rate
and the ability of the F/A- 18 to come back aboard the
ship … allows me to sleep a little easier at night.