Hawaii welcomes sailors returning from tough deployment - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaii welcomes sailors returning from tough deployment

The USS John C. Stennis The USS John C. Stennis
Commander Chad Lee Commander Chad Lee
Rear Adm. Craig Faller Rear Adm. Craig Faller
Lt. Commander Julio Ledesma Lt. Commander Julio Ledesma

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thousands of sailors are enjoying their first night back on U.S. soil. The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group is in Hawaii for a port visit after a busy deployment to the Middle East and Western Pacific. After being away for seven long months, sailors on the USS John C. Stennis couldn't wait to see their loved ones. The aircraft carrier is part of the Stennis strike group which arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

"It's been a tough deployment, especially being away from family, but it's something that we all signed up for," said Kailua native Commander Chad Lee.

"It's great to be back in the United States. The crew is excited. I'm so proud of the men and women of this strike group for their performance," said Rear Adm. Craig Faller, commander of the strike group.

The sailors played a critical role the drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq. They also provided aviation support to Coalition forces in Afghanistan.

"We launched over 1,000 combat missions over Afghanistan in support of our soldier, sailors, airmen, marines and coalition forces," explained Faller.

"Everybody took part in Afghanistan and Iraq. We spent about two or three months in each theatre. So we closed out Iraq which was a good honor for us. It's kind of nice to know that we'll be a part of history there," said Lt. Commander Julio Ledesma.

The strike group also stopped a pirate attack on a cargo vessel and freed a group of Iranian mariners being held captive.

"It was fast-paced operation. We moved quickly and resolved it quickly and it was really a great experience to know that we saved lives," said Faller.

Now the sailors are looking forward to relaxing during their port visit in paradise.

"It is an opportunity to come back here to the United States and relax, maybe go shopping, go to the exchange, go to the beach and catch up on some sleep," Faller said.

During port visits, the sailors also volunteered for community service projects at orphanages and schools in 10 countries. The Stennis will return to its homeport in Bremerton, Washington in a few days.

 

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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