Five Area Navy Ships Return From Mid-East Deployment

USS Stennis makes a stop in Coronado before moving on to its homeport Tuesday.

Five San Diego-based Navy ships returned today following an adventure-filled seven-month deployment to the western Pacific and Middle East.

The guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay came home, along with the guided-missile destroyers USS Dewey, USS Kidd, USS Wayne E. Meyer and USS Pinckney.

The vessels are attached to the USS John C. Stennis Strike Group. The aircraft carrier, homeported at Bremerton, Wash., tied up at Coronado and is scheduled to leave Tuesday.

Aircraft with Carrier Air Wing 9, based at NAS Lemoore but including helicopter squadrons from San Diego, also arrived home.

While deployed, the ships played a pivotal role in the draw-down of U.S. forces in Iraq, officials said.

On Dec. 18, an E-2C "Hawkeye" aircraft that was part of Carrier Air Wing 9 flew the last Navy aviation mission over Iraq.

"Flying the last Navy air mission in Iraq was a historic achievement for all of us," said Capt. Dale Horan, former commander of Carrier Air Wing 9. "Everyone in this strike group played a major part in making that happen and it's a part of history we will always share."

In January, while supporting operations in Afghanistan, the strike group's sailors thwarted an attempted pirate attack on a Bahamian-flagged cargo vessel and freed a group of Iranian mariners from the suspected pirates, Navy officials said.

"Our goal was safety and security, protecting the lives of those fishermen," said Cmdr. Jennifer L. Ellinger, commanding officer of the USS Kidd. "We were just happy to save lives and help people."

When the ships began the trek home by crossing the Strait of Hormuz, Iranian officials warned the Stennis to not return, part of the simmering tensions with that nation over its nuclear program and economic sanctions levied by western countries.

The strike group also conducted several exercises with partner countries in the western Pacific and made stops in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.


– City News Service


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