Tuesday, January 29, 2008

USS Vicksburg Returns from Gulf

By Ensign Drew Perciballi, USS Vicksburg Public Affairs

MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- USS Vicksburg (CG 69) and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Light (HSL) 42 Detachment 5 returned from a six-month Persian Gulf deployment, Jan. 25.

Over the course of her deployment, Vicksburg served as air defense commander for the Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group, area commander for Commander Task Force (CTF) 158 in the Northern Persian Gulf, supported the coalition presence and security operations in the Central Persian Gulf, hosted both the secretary of the Navy and secretary of defense, and conducted Maritime Security Operations in the region. Also, Capt. John C. Nygaard relieved Capt. Charles C. Swicker as Vicksburg's commanding officer.

Vicksburg enjoyed several port visits throughout the deployment, including being the first U.S. Navy ship to visit La Spezia, Italy in over three years. During the six-day port visit, Sailors enjoyed trips to Florence, Genova, Pisa, and Cinque Terre. In addition to Italy, Vicksburg visited Souda Bay, Crete, where the crew enjoyed tours of ancient ruins and crystal clear beaches.

While operating in the Persian Gulf, Vicksburg visited Manama, Bahrain on four separate occasions and also benefited from a liberty visit to Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates.

Upon completion of her duties in the Persian Gulf, Vicksburg made a quick stop in Salalah, Oman prior to transiting the Suez Canal.

Limassol, Cyprus and Valletta, Malta were the next stops for Vicksburg, as she voyaged across the Mediterranean Sea and the 6th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR).

Vicksburg traveled over 31,500 miles and passed through several major choke points, including eight Strait of Hormuz transits.

While deployed to the 5th fleet AOR, Vicksburg was called on to perform a variety of missions. In support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Vicksburg served as the area commander for CTF 158 at the Al Basrah Oil Terminal, a vital structure in Iraq's improving economy. On station, Vicksburg conducted 26 visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) evolutions, numerous security patrols, and conducted 76 small boat transfers, during a combined six-week period.

Showing versatility, Vicksburg seamlessly integrated into the Enterprise Strike Group, relieving USS Gettysburg (CG 64) as air defense commander and "shotgun" escort ship, allowing the Mayport-based Gettysburg made a port visit.

The crew worked successfully towards personal accomplishments, with over 50 Sailors attaining their enlisted surface warfare specialist pins.

Vicksburg also successfully completed two unit level training assessment - sustainment evolutions while transiting to and from homeport.

Vicksburg was tasked to assume duties as a surface action group commander for the returning ships in the Kearsarge Strike Group.