The guided-missile cruiser Vella Gulf has received the green light to continue its deployment after getting underway last week and successfully wrapping up sea trials.
“USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) has successfully completed sea trials and will continue on its mission,” 2nd Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Marycate Walsh said in a statement Monday. “Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center, ship’s force and Navy technical experts helped to execute work items on a condensed timeline to get the ship back to sea.”
The Vella Gulf has faced multiple technical issues that have kept the ship and crew in port in Norfolk, Virginia, after the ship initially deployed with the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group in February.
The ship returned to its homeport in late February, less than a week after setting out with the Eisenhower, due to a fuel oil leak. After that problem was fixed and the ship returned to the sea in March, it suffered another leak in the same fuel tank and had to return to Norfolk a second time.
Most recently, the ship suffered another engineering casualty during pre-deployment checks this month. Walsh said in a statement at the time that “crewmembers discovered debris in a main reduction gear lube oil strainer,” and it was uncertain how long the repairs would take.
The Vella Gulf finally got underway again on April 21.
It’s unclear if the Vella Gulf will rejoin the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, and Walsh declined to comment on future operations in response to a query from Navy Times.
While pierside in Norfolk awaiting repairs, the ship’s crew remained on board to ensure that the COVID-free bubble remained intact.
Although the Navy has authorized loosening restrictions for sailors who’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine — including allowing fully vaccinated crews to skip restriction of movement (ROM) and sequesters — the Vella Gulf crew is not fully vaccinated and wasn’t eligible to partake in the more flexible measures. according to the Navy.
Even so, Walsh said that the service had offered several avenues for sailors to decompress and relax while the deployment was in limbo.
“Throughout this delay in deployment, leadership has been keenly aware of all repair efforts, as well as the health and welfare of the crew,” Walsh said in a statement earlier this month. “The ship remains in a deployed status and is maintaining a COVID-free bubble while repairs are ongoing.”
“Ship and Fleet leaders have been working hard to provide the crew opportunities for rest and relaxation,” Walsh said. “Some actions already taken include expansion of liberties (civilian clothes after hours) during off-duty time, fitness on the pier, several morale, welfare, and recreation-sponsored food and fitness events, and care-package drop-off days for families.”