US cruiser Vella Gulf wraps up 8-month Persian Gulf stint

US Navy guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) wrapped up eight months of operations in the US 5th Fleet area of operation returning to her homeport at Naval Station Norfolk on December 15. 

The cruiser got underway on April 23, as an independent deployer, to support maritime security operations in the Persian Gulf. With their ballistic missile defense capability, the cruiser and its crew were an asset there for more than six months.

In July, Vella Gulf joined the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Carrier Strike Group for three months, during which they conducted air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. They also conducted six multinational operations with Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Iraq, and Kuwait.

Nearly 200 days of the 237-day deployment were spent underway, including 59 consecutive days. The ship traveled 49,130 nautical miles, completed 26 underway replenishments, 18 small boat operations, 18 strait transits, and two swim calls in the Persian Gulf.

The crew visited Manama, Bahrain on four occasions. They also visited Rota, Spain and Agadir, Morocco.

While deployed, the crew held a change of command ceremony in which Capt. Rob Thompson relieved Capt. Mark Oberley as commanding officer. They also celebrated the selection of five new chief petty officers, as well as 90 sailors who qualified as enlisted surface warfare specialists, four who earned enlisted air warfare specialists pins, and eight who qualified as surface warfare officers.

Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 46, Detachment Four was aboard the Vella Gulf throughout the deployment. With two MH-60R Seahawk helicopters, the air crews logged 670 flight hours and 494 deck landings in support of anti-submarine and surface warfare operations.

The ship’s operational requirements extended the deployment but allowed the crew to make it home for the Christmas and New Year’s holiday.

“I am inspired by Vella Gulf sailors every single day,” commanding officer Capt. Rob Thompson said. “It was a challenging work-up cycle and a long deployment that saw two unplanned extensions and very few liberty ports. Throughout it all, the crew demonstrated incredible commitment and toughness; it was an honor to sail with them.”

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