The guided-missile cruiser Monterey and guided-missile destroyer Mitscher are back in Norfolk following nine-month deployments.
The ships, the last of the Dwight. D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group vessels to return home, were deployed to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleets after departing Norfolk Feb. 24. They arrived in Norfolk Sept. 17.
The Monterey participated in several exercises during the deployment, including Exercise Lightning Handshake with the Royal Moroccan Navy and Royal Moroccan Air Force, and Exercise Sea Shield 21 in the Black Sea with Romania.
A U.S. Coast Guard advanced interdiction team was also embarked on the Monterey and seized thousands of illegal weapons in the North Arabian Sea, such as dozens of advanced Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles, thousands of Chinese Type 56 assault rifles, and hundreds of PKM machine guns, sniper rifles and rocket-propelled grenades launchers.
The Mitscher assisted the Eisenhower CSG and the Ronald Reagan CSG during the withdrawal from Afghanistan and provided immediate response after an explosive aerial drone struck the Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned oil tanker, off the coast of Oman in July.
U.S. Central Command has since said it believes the drone used in the fatal attack originated from Iran, based on investigation findings from a team on the Reagan. A Romanian citizen who was master of the ship and a British national who was on the security detail were killed as a result of the strike.
“From operations in the Mediterranean, to providing critical defense of Eisenhower and Reagan Carrier Strike Groups during the Afghanistan withdrawal, to responding to an attack on a merchant vessel, this crew flawlessly executed every task with professionalism and courage,” said Cmdr. Thomas McCandless, commanding officer of the Mitscher, according to a Navy news release. “I am exceptionally proud of each and every Mitscherman for their contributions to these missions. Serving alongside such a professional crew is an honor.”
The Eisenhower’s strike group also included the guided-missile cruiser Vella Gulf and destroyers Mahan, 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, the Vella Gulf returned July 23 and the Mahan returned Aug. 6.