Thursday, August 30, 2007

Families, Friends Welcome Home Antietam, CVW 9

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Bill Larned, Fleet Public Affairs Center Pacific

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSSG) returned to San Diego Aug. 27, marking the end of deployment for Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 and the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54).

As Antietam arrived at Naval Base San Diego, Pier 3 was bustling with scores of people waving signs and banners. Sailors walked down the brow, absorbing the greetings shouted by families and friends. The ones that watched their Sailors from the shore lived their own stories while Antietam crew members helped defend their way of life.

"Being pregnant made it difficult to deal with the deployment," said the wife of Antietam's Cryptologic Technician (Technical) Seaman Apprentice (SW) Scott Deaton. "I'm just glad he's back with me."

"Deployments are something we have gotten used to as a military family," said retired Marine Staff Sgt. Larry Bratcher. "All we can do is stay positive and celebrate our Sailor's return home."

At Naval Air Station North Island, several SH-60F Seahawk helicopters belonging to the Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron (HS) 8 “Eightballers” performed a flyover to the delight of families, friends and supporters. Outside the “Eightballers” hangar, loved ones waited anxiously for the aircrews to emerge.

The mother of one HS-8 member drove down from Los Angeles to see her son, Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 3rd Class Kyle Williams. Right before he stepped out of his helicopter, she remarked that seeing him deploy for the first time made her chalk up yet another experience as a mother.

“It was definitely a new experience for him, because it was his first deployment. But it was also a new experience for me, not quite knowing what to expect,” she said. “I would say the hardest part of his deployment for me was whether or not I could communicate with him. Sometimes we could communicate through e-mail, and sometimes we could not. The days I couldn’t talk to him were tough,” she admitted.

JCSSG includes the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, Destroyer Squadron 21, the guided-missile cruiser Antietam, the guided-missile destroyers USS O’Kane (DDG 77), USS Preble (DDG 88) and USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60) and the fast combat support ship USNS Bridge (T-AOE 10).

The squadrons of CVW-9 include: the “Black Knights” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154, “Blue Diamonds” of VFA-146, “Argonauts” of VFA-147, Death Rattlers of VMFA-323, “Yellow Jackets” of Electronic Attack Squadron 138, “Golden Hawks” of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 112, “Top Cats” of Sea Control Squadron 31, HS-8 and “Providers” of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 30, as well as, squadron detachments including the “Battle Cats” of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 43, the “Wolfpack” of HSL-45 and the “Wild Cards” from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23. More than 6,500 Sailors and Marines are assigned to JCSSG.