San Diego-based squadrons launching strikes against Islamic State targets

SAN DIEGO — Air crews aboard the San Diego-based aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt began launching strikes Friday against Islamic State targets in the Middle East.

The “Big Stick” left San Diego on Oct. 6 and was joined the next day by the cruiser USS Bunker Hill. They spent most of their time since in the western Pacific Ocean, where tensions are high with North Korea, but made their way into the Persian Gulf within the past few days.

“The first day of flight operations supporting Operation Inherent Resolve is a highly-anticipated day where the Theodore Roosevelt strike group transitions into combat operations to demonstrate our continued commitment to this region and our partner nations,’ said Rear Adm. Steve Koehler, commander of Carrier Strike Group 9.

“Success in this important mission takes every sailor and Marine on board working as a team,” Koehler said. “I’m incredibly proud of all the work this team has done throughout their training and preparation, they are ready and now it is time to go to work.”

Squadrons from Carrier Air Wing 17 — from bases in California, South Carolina and Washington — are flying from the Roosevelt, named after the 26th U.S. president.

The Navy tries to keep a flattop in the Persian Gulf at all times, but the Roosevelt is filling a void left when the USS Nimitz left in October. Two San Diego-based ships sailing with the Nimitz, the cruiser USS Princeton and destroyer USS Howard, are due to return home Tuesday following a six-month deployment.

Separately operating in the Persian Gulf is the San Diego-based America Amphibious Ready Group, composed of the amphibious assault ship USS America, amphibious transport dock USS San Diego and amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor. The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, from Camp Pendleton, is embarked aboard the ships.