Destroyers return to San Diego after search for missing Malaysian jet

SAN DIEGO - American warships that took part in the search for the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet that went missing in March returned returned home to San Diego Thursday from separate seven-month deployments.
 
The 380 officers and enlisted men aboard each of the 509-foot-long guided-missile destroyers USS Pinckney and USS Kidd were conducting training missions in the South China Sea when the jumbo jet disappeared. Both ships sent their MH-60R Seahawk helicopters on search missions for the missing aircraft.
 
"Lending support to our regional partners in a time of difficulty is what we do," said Cmdr. Frank Okata, Pinckney's commanding officer.
 
The choppers, based at Naval Air Station North Island, searched around 1,500 square miles per day, according to the Navy.
 
"Our helicopters are an extension of the ship's capabilities and provided us with the best chance to find aircraft debris," said Lt. j.g. Eric Bachtel, the Combat Information Center officer aboard the Kidd.
 
The Boeing 777 that carried 239 passengers and crew on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing has never turned up.
 
The helicopter pilots and their support crews -- 20 in all -- flew in to their home base at Naval Air Station North Island on Wednesday morning.
 
The next wave of the homecoming was on a bigger scale. Cassie Elliott's husband was on the USS Pickney. As the ship rounded the corner, her eyes welled with tears and her heart wasfinally at ease.

"He's here ... it's over," she said. "It's been trying."

This was the Elliott family's first deployment with children.

Four-year-old Colton thought his dad was gone half his life.

"Two years!" young Colton said.

It was actually just a really long seven months. Mom is great, but Colton had been craving guy time.

"I'm just going to wrestle him up ... Wrestle!" Colton said.

That was a relief for mom, who said, "He's here and he's home, and we can be a family again."

The USS Pinckney is named for Navy cook William Pinckney, who received a Navy Cross for his daring rescue of a fellow crewman aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise when it was badly damaged in the Battle of Santa Cruz off the Solomon Islands during World War II.
 
The USS Kidd is named for Rear Adm. Isaac Kidd, who was among the 1,177 sailors who died aboard the battleship USS Arizona during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

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