The guided-missile destroyer Mahan is back in Norfolk, after being deployed to the U.S. 5th and 6th fleet areas of operation since February.
“This crew has done an absolutely amazing job,” Cmdr. Christopher Cummins, Mahan’s commanding officer, told reporters. “What’s been really amazing is that we deployed in the face of the COVID pandemic. And watching this crew go through seven months of only being able to pull into the piers, but make the most of every second that they have in that entire cruise, has been phenomenal.”
“I can’t say enough great things about the crew of the Mahan and all the great work they’ve done,” Cummins said. “And I’m so proud to have them back. This is absolutely the best warship in the Navy.”
The Mahan deployed with the Dwight. D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group. The destroyer was involved in the bilateral maritime exercise Neon Defender with the Bahraini navy, and completed a passing exercise with the Egyptian navy’s guided-missile frigate ENS Taba in the Red Sea during the deployment.
The carrier strike group also transited the Suez Canal in April — becoming the first U.S. warships to transit the canal after it was blocked by the Taiwanese cargo ship Ever Given.
Likewise, the Ike CSG conducted dual carrier operations with the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and its strike group in the Arabian Sea.
“Always the most challenging thing is to leave home and then come together as a crew,” Cummins said. “And you take that most challenging part about being away from home, and then turn into your biggest strength because the crew becomes a family. And that’s what I got to see over these last seven months.”
Other challenges Cummins cited were the COVID-19 restrictions that prevented the crew from experiencing port visits and liberty as they normally would. The Mahan was able to pull into Safaga, Egypt; Aqaba, Jordan; Souda Bay, Greece; and Rota, Spain. However, crew members were limited to the pier except for one night in Rota.
Cummins, who is looking forward to some steaks and baseball with his immediate family upon arriving home, acknowledged that deployments are challenging and impossible to complete without the support of family.
“But when you get to see them standing on the pier — this is the best day in the Navy,” Cummins said.
In addition to the Mahan, the Eisenhower’s carrier strike group included guided-missile cruisers Vella Gulf and Monterey, and guided-missile destroyers Mitscher, Laboon and Hudner.
The Laboon returned to Norfolk July 16, the Hudner returned to Naval Station Mayport July 17, the Eisenhower returned to Norfolk July 18, and the Vella Gulf returned July 23.
The Monterey and Mitscher have not concluded their deployments yet.