Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Paul Hamilton’s Crew Completes Unique Deployment

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Davis Anderson, USS John C. Stennis Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60) pulled into its homeport of Pearl Harbor, Aug. 20, after completing a seven-month deployment.

Paul Hamilton left its homeport Jan. 26 and was originally scheduled to depart with the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSCSG). After two days at sea, the ship received different orders for their deployment.

“The president wanted a two-carrier presence in the Persian Gulf,” said Paul Hamilton’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Christopher Bushnell. “Stennis went right to the Persian Gulf. Kitty Hawk was in the yards, so the Ronald Reagan Strike Group (RRCSG) surged out of her national deployment schedule. [Reagan's] destroyer escorts were going through maintenance periods, so they put together other ships to make [Reagan's] strike group: Paul Hamilton, USS Russell (DDG 59) and USS Lake Champlain (CG 57).”

The training Paul Hamilton underwent with JCSSG helped them to integrate effectively with this new strike group in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR).

“We exercised every mission capability--plane guard, small boats--we did multinational exercises with the Japanese,” said Bushnell.

Paul Hamilton also performed a different type of mission in the 7th Fleet AOR--theater engagement. Ships involved in this mission make port calls to various countries on diplomatic missions.

“It has always been a traditional mission to go present the flag and the best of what America has to offer,” said Paul Hamilton’s Operations Officer, Lt. Justin Harts. “A major part of our mission was theater engagement, to go out and actually work hand-in-hand with the state department on diplomatic missions. The ship performed above and beyond the call of duty.”

When it was time for RRSG to return home, Paul Hamilton joined the Kitty Hawk Carrier Strike Group and performed theater engagement missions in Japan and Korea. Afterward, they augmented the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group for operations near Australia.

“We were working with USS Tortuga (LSD 46), USS Essex (LHD 2) and royal Australian ships,” said Bushnell. “We got to work in a very challenging environment, conducting operations right around the Great Barrier Reef. There were a lot of environmental concerns, and you have to be very sensitive to that because of the really unique marine life of the Great Barrier Reef.”

Paul Hamilton rejoined JCSCSG to participate in Exercise Valiant Shield 2007, Aug. 7-14, the largest joint exercise in recent history. The exercise included 30 ships, 280 aircraft and more than 20,000 service members from the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

After finishing Valiant Shield and their operational requirement in the 7th Fleet AOR, Paul Hamilton’s crew returns home, knowing they completed a very unique and successful deployment.

“They supported major exercises, such as Foal Eagle and Talisman Sabre,” said Rear Adm. Kevin M. Quinn, commander, Carrier Strike Group 3. “They contributed to security and peace throughout the Pacific during their operations. They were tasked to work with two different carrier strike groups, and every report I received was that their performance was outstanding.”

Bushnell had nothing but praise for his crew, who, for seven months, had to remain flexible and be ready for the next mission.

“They were awesome,” said Bushnell. “They really answered the call on everything. I am very proud. We were able to knock the ball out of the park on every task we were given here, regardless of who we were working with or what we were asked to do.”