Tags: USS | Stennis | Returns | From | Afghan | Deployment

USS Stennis Returns From Afghan Deployment

Tuesday, 28 May 2002 12:00 AM

Sailors, decked out in white dress uniforms, manned the rails as tugboats slowly nudged the huge carrier to its dock at North Island Naval Air Station on San Diego Bay. Scores of flag-waving friends and family members cheered, waved and waited impatiently for the gangplank to finally be hoisted into place.

"Thanks for supporting us back home," an unidentified sailor told San Diego television station KGTV as she set foot on San Diego soil for the first time since the nuclear-powered carrier put to sea Nov. 12. "This is the day we have been waiting for."

Traffic on the Coronado Bay Bridge leading to North Island was slowed to a crawl as the welcoming crowd streamed onto the base.

In keeping with Navy tradition, the 60 crewmen who became new fathers during the deployment had the honor of being allowed off the ship first. They were welcomed by their wives and given their first look in person at their offspring.

"I don't know what mom has been feeding them, but she better stop unless she wants him to play football," an excited new father and chief petty officer told KGTV.

The holiday plans of 5,200 sailors and Marines were scuttled last year when the Stennis and its escort ships were ordered to shove off two months ahead of schedule to provide air support for the U.S.-led military campaign in landlocked Afghanistan. While on station in the northern Arabian Sea, the carrier launched 1,898 air strikes and dropped around 275,000 pounds of laser-guided bombs and other ordnance.

During a brief port call in Singapore on Dec. 7, the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, a flag recovered from the rubble of the World Trade Center was raised on the carrier and flown after the ship arrived in the Arabian Sea a week later to relive the USS Carl Vinson.

In March, the Stennis provided air support for Operation Anaconda, when U.S. ground troops pushed into a mountainous area of eastern Afghanistan where al-Qaeda and Taliban guerrillas were holed up.

The aircraft that flew from the Stennis arrived at their home bases in San Diego and Lemoore, Calif., during the weekend. The Stennis battle group, including two submarines, will return to their homeports during the next several days.

Another escort ship, the frigate Jarrett, sailed into San Diego Bay with the Stennis and docked at the 32nd Street Naval Station to a welcome that was much smaller, but no less enthusiastic.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Sailors, decked out in white dress uniforms, manned the rails as tugboats slowly nudged the huge carrier to its dock at North Island Naval Air Station on San Diego Bay. Scores of flag-waving friends and family members cheered, waved and waited impatiently for the gangplank...
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2002-00-28
Tuesday, 28 May 2002 12:00 AM
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