USS Peleliu deploys to Hawaiian Islands

SAN DIEGO - The amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu left San Diego Tuesday morning for a naval exercise and deployment to the Western Pacific and Indian oceans.

Peleliu and its crew of around 1,050 sailors and 1,200 Marines will participate in the multinational maritime exercise known as RIMPAC -- for Rim of the Pacific – as the command ship for an expeditionary strike group.

Kaitlyn Douglas cried until the tissue crumbled on her face as she watched the ship pull away. She said goodbye after saying "I do" to her new wife just three months ago.

"The minute I saw her, I just loved her," Douglas said.

Janie Yee's son, Patrick, is the youngest of her four sons to join the Navy, and he's been at it for 14 years. She said it never gets any easier.

"I'm very proud of him," Yee said.

The training will take place from June 26 to Aug. 1 in and around the Hawaiian Islands.

Another San Diego-based ship, the guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George, left Monday for RIMPAC and a Western Pacific deployment. More than 25,000 personnel from 23 nations in 48 surface ships, six submarines and more than 200 aircraft are set to participate in this year's RIMPAC exercise, according to the Navy. Navy officials said the participating nations will use a wide range of capabilities pertaining to disaster relief, maritime security and naval combat.

The vessel will proceed to other operations following the exercise, according to the Navy.

"Peleliu is ready for all assigned missions and any possible mission that could arise," said Capt. Paul Spedero Jr., the commanding officer. "While forward deployed, we are prepared to handle contingencies that may arise from conducting operations to supporting humanitarian assistance/disaster response or delivering combat power ashore, when necessary."

As conflict  bubbles in Iraq, there's concern the USS Peleliu could change course.

"With everything that's on the news right now, I do have concerns for their safe journey," Yee said.

Douglas was trying to keep positive.

"If they have to head that way then I know they'll be safe because I have faith in the ship," she said.

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