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NORFOLK, Va. — The Barry left its home port on Thursday to load weapons for its journey to Europe as part of a NATO defense plan to provide a ballistic-missile shield for U.S. allies.
The guided-missile destroyer will relieve the USS Laboon in its patrols around the continent to guard against a potential Iranian nuclear threat.
After a storm passes, the ship will start making its way across the Atlantic Ocean on Monday. The deployment takes place just weeks before a set of automatic, massive budget cuts known as sequestration takes effect March 1.
If sequestration happens, the Navy has said it would stop all deployments to Central and South America. It would also limit deployments to Europe to those participating in ballistic missile defense. However, ballistic-missile defense patrols in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea would also be reduced.
The cuts could also result in the Barry's deployment being extended longer than the six months it is currently planned to last.
"Anytime you go on a deployment you tell the crew, 'This is what we're scheduled for and if requirements change you have to be flexible.' And we talk to the families about that as well because that's who it's really hard on because they're holding down the fort while we're away doing our job," said Barry Cmdr. Thomas J. Dickinson.
To help reduce the turnaround time and expense it takes to rotate destroyers to Europe as part of the missile shield, the U.S. has struck an agreement with Spain to homeport four destroyers there.
Three of the ships are currently homeported in Norfolk, Va. They are the Ross, the Donald Cook and the Porter. The fourth ship, the Carney, is based in Mayport, Fla.
The Ross and Donald Cook will arrive in Rota, Spain in the 2014 fiscal year while the Carney and Porter will arrive in the 2015 fiscal year.