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Two ships return home this week

Oct. 23, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Lt. j.g. Kyle Chance kisses his wife after returning to Naval Station Mayport, Fla., after a six-month deployment aboard the guided-missile frigate Samuel B. Roberts.
Lt. j.g. Kyle Chance kisses his wife after returning to Naval Station Mayport, Fla., after a six-month deployment aboard the guided-missile frigate Samuel B. Roberts. (MC2 Marcus L. Stanley/Navy)
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A sailor greets his family after a four-month deployment aboard the amphibious dock landing ship Tortuga. (MC3 Abe McNatt/Navy)
Families gather Oct. 22 in Norfolk, Va., to welcome home the crew of the Tortuga after a four-month deployment. (MC3 Abe McNatt/Navy)
Chief Personnel Specialist Kervon Grant greets his daughter Kalyah on Oct. 22 in Norfolk, Va., after a four-month deployment on the Tortuga. (MC3 Abe McNatt/Navy)

Two ships — the Tortuga and “Sammy B” — each returned home this week to their respective homeports.

■The amphibious dock landing ship Tortuga returned home Tuesday after seven years forward-deployed to Japan, where it has been replaced by the amphibious dock landing ship Ashland.

“This hull swap has been a year in the making,” Tortuga commanding officer Cmdr. Brett Hershman said in a Navy release. “Throughout the work-ups and transit [to Japan] and back ... the crew performed magnificently — I couldn’t have asked any more from them.”

Hershmann, formerly Ashland’s commanding officer, left June 27 for Sasebo, Japan, from Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, Va., the homeport for both ships.

Ashland recently underwent a midlife modernization process to upgrade its legacy equipment and control stations. The hull swap allows the forward-deployed crew to remain abroad while their ships are switched out for maintenance.

“The [hull swap] process is regularly used by the Navy to transition ships from a forward-deployed area back stateside,” Hershman said. “Ships operating out of Sasebo have a very high operational tempo; periodically bringing them back gives us a chance to perform more extensive maintenance and routine modifications to ensure their continued value to the fleet.”

Over several weeks, the crews took inventory and familiarized themselves with their new ships before swapping roles, sending Ashland’s former crew home with Tortuga.

Tortuga will continue to operate through 2014, for training and other local operations in the Atlantic fleet, while it undergoes repairs and maintenance at Norfolk.

■The guided-missile frigate Samuel B. Roberts returned home Wednesday to Naval Station Mayport, Fla., after six months at sea traveling the central Mediterranean and working for U.S. Africa Command.

The ship “steamed more than 30,000 nautical miles,” a Navy news release stated, and conducted 18 underway replenishments and 22 small boat evolutions. In August, while on a port stop to Durress, Albania, the crew hosted some of the most senior members of the Albanian defense forces.

Detachment 9 of Helicopter Strike Maritime Squadron 46, deployed on the ship, also set a record for the MQ-8B Fire Scout, an unmanned helicopter. The detachment logged 1,712 flight hours on the deployment, breaking the previous record by more than 800 hours.

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