NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) successfully passed through the Strait of Gibraltar on Monday, bringing the ships from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea as they continue to operate in the 6th Fleet area of responsibility.
The ships, part of the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group, left Naval Station Norfolk on Jan. 13.
The transit is important as a strategic statement, said Rear Adm. Terry B. Kraft, commander of Enterprise Carrier Strike Group. "Entering the Mediterranean in the shadow of the rock of Gibraltar is always symbolic to me," he said. "It sends a strong signal that the Enterprise Strike Group has arrived to operate and integrate with our partners in the region."
The Strait of Gibraltar separates Europe and Africa by only seven miles at its closest point. The depth ranges from 980 to 3,000 feet.
Quartermaster 3rd Class Tom Sanborn, a quartermaster of the watch aboard Enterprise, said to successfully complete a transit through the strait, skill, planning and concentration are required by all hands.
"There's a lot of shallow water, and in some areas the land is less than five nautical miles from the ships on either side," said Sanborn. "There is no room for error."
The process of transiting the strait requires the quartermasters on a ship's bridge to take constant measurements of the ship's position, both electronically and manually by taking bearings and visually watching the distance from the land.
"The entire process usually takes several hours," said Sanborn. "We take bearings and make sure we're in deep enough water every two minutes, and we cross reference the data with what we see on our screens electronically."
The strait is dangerous to transit for other reasons including traffic from other ships.
"We call sea and anchor detail before going through the strait, so our Deck department is standing by, ready to drop the anchor in case of an emergency," said Sanborn. "We only let our master helmsmen drive the ship during the transit."
The Enterprise Carrier Strike Group consists of the Enterprise, the Leyte Gulf, the guided-missile destroyers USS Bulkeley (DDG 84), the USS Barry (DDG 52) and the USS Mason (DDG 87); the USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8), Carrier Air Wing 1 and Destroyer Squadron 2.
(Compiled from report by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Austin Rooney)
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