SAN DIEGO - The ships and sailors of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group returned to their home port of San Diego on Tuesday to wrap up an eight-month deployment, while another locally based warship left for a four-month humanitarian mission.
The amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu, the amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay and amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore pulled into port at Naval Station San Diego Tuesday morning.
Eight months is a long time to be away from anything, especially where children are concerned.
"I was deployed during my son's senior year of high school, so it takes a toll," said Capt. Putnam Browne, who is the commanding officer of USS Green Bay.
The ships spent long hours off the California coast off-loading Marines and equipment to Camp Pendleton.
The off load was historic in that the twin rotor CH-46 helicopter, nicknamed the "battle frog," lifted off the deck of the USS Green Bay for the last time. The CH-46 is being phased out of service.
The USS Green Bay takes its namesake seriously. Passageways are named for famous Green Bay Packers, such as Bart Starr and Vince Lombardi. The ship's store even has autographed Super Bowl trophies won by the NFL team. As the Green Bay entered San Diego Bay, those manning the rail could not believe the sight.
"After eight months, I'm sort of in shock," said Marine Lance Cpl. Douglas Long. "Words can't really express how I feel right now."
The Peleliu ARG served as a reserve force in the Middle East and conducted exercises with allied armed forces.
"The ARG has accomplished a lot in our eight months of deployment," said Capt. Shawn Lobree, its commanding officer. "Most significantly we helped maintain security in a volatile part of the world through missions which ranged from counter weapons proliferation, support to special forces, maritime security operations and multilateral theater security cooperation exercises with countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Djibouti."
Members of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit were on board the vessels and returned to Camp Pendleton on Monday.
In the afternoon, the amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor departed for Pacific Partnership 2013, in which sailors and volunteers from aid organizations in several countries will perform humanitarian missions in Samoa, Tonga, the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands.
"The U.S. Pacific Fleet is always prepared for battle, but we also operate to preserve the peace," said Adm. Cecil Haney, the fleet's commander. "Ultimately, missions such as Pacific Partnership strengthen relationships that are critical to deter conflict. They build trust, enhance cooperation, and open dialogues between leaders, a multilateral approach that benefits all nations including the United States."
Pacific Partnership was started 2006 to help victims of the disastrous tsunami two years earlier and has turned into an annual event. According to the Navy, 13 countries, 28 aid groups, four U.S. agencies plus the Defense Department took part last year.