The guided-missile cruiser Vella Gulf is back from deployment — after a series of technical difficulties earlier this year delayed the ship from getting underway.
The Vella Gulf was deployed to the 5th and 6th Fleets areas of operation, as part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group. During the deployment, the ship completed several transits through the Strait of Hormuz and joined in Exercise Eager Defender in the Northern Arabian Gulf.
Likewise, the ship was responsible for providing close-air support for Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Calgary in May in the Arabian Sea.
“Team 72 faced one of the most rigorous deployment schedules of anyone in the fleet, and these outstanding Sailors made it all look easy,” Capt. Michael Desmond, commanding officer of the Vella Gulf, said in a Navy release. “The Sailors of Vella Gulf worked extremely hard in enabling our ship to provide the necessary support to the IKE CSG across many missions during this deployment with total professionalism.”
The Vella Gulf has encountered back-to-back deployments with only a few months in between, since it was also deployed with the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group during its 2020 deployment. The aircraft carrier returned to Norfolk earlier this month after completing a double-pump deployment.
“I am most proud that we had all these reasons why we may not have been successful,” Rear Adm. Scott Robertson, Carrier Strike Group 2 commander, told reporters earlier this month.
Such reasons include the double-pump deployment, COVID-19, and the six-week composite unit training exercise the Eisenhower strike group completed just before officially deploying, according to Robertson.
“The fact that this team just absolutely rallied and went out and truly showed their grit, their toughness and their commitment to the Navy and our nation is what I’m most proud of,” Robertson said. “And we went out and we really shined, we really demonstrated and met all of our deployment objectives really.”
The Vella Gulf did not get off to an easy start this deployment.
The ship originally deployed with the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group in February, but returned to Norfolk less than a week later due to a fuel oil leak. The ship attempted heading out to sea again in March, but encountered another leak in the same fuel tank, and was forced to return to Norfolk again.
Furthermore, another engineering problem was detected during pre-deployment checks in April. 2nd Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Marycate Walsh said in a statement at the time that “crewmembers discovered debris in a main reduction gear lube oil strainer.”
During the repairs, the warship remained pierside in Norfolk in a deployed status with the crew onboard in order to preserve a COVID-free bubble.
The ship ultimately got underway for the deployment on April 21, and returned to Naval Station Norfolk on July 23.