USS Vella Gulf returns to Norfolk after eight-month deployment

NORFOLK (NNS) – The USS Vella Gulf, a guided-missile cruiser, returned to Norfolk Naval Station of Friday following an eight-month deployment.

The USS Vella Gulf was on deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operation after leaving Norfolk on April 23. The focus of the Vella Gulf’s mission was to support maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf.

For three months, the Vella Gulf also helped with conducting air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, working on six multinational operations with Morocco; United Arab Emirates; Pakistan; Iraq; and Kuwait as well, said Navy officials.

“Despite the short amount of time on-board, I have learned a lot working with this team and the strike group,” said Ens. Alec Phillips, the ship’s gunnery officer, who reported to the ship halfway through deployment.  “The experience I have gained is something that I can take forward with me during the ship’s next deployment.”

Nearly 200 days of the 237-day deployment were spent underway, including 59 consecutive days.  The ship traveled 49,130 nautical miles, completed 26 underway replenishments, 18 small boat operations, 18 strait transits, and two swim calls in the Arabian Gulf, added Navy officials.

“I am inspired by Vella Gulf Sailors every single day,” said Thompson. “It was a challenging work-up cycle and a long deployment that saw two unplanned extensions and very few liberty ports.  Throughout it all, the crew demonstrated incredible commitment and toughness; it was an honor to sail with them.

“I wish every American could be here on the pier today to celebrate the Sailors and their families who do so much to safeguard our freedom,” Thompson added.

During the deployment, the ship also saw a change in its commanding officer, which was capped off by a change of command ceremony on the ship. Captain Rob Thompson relived Captain Mark Oberley as commanding officer of the USS Vella Gulf.

Five new petty officers were selected, and 90 Sailor qualified as Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist, four who earned Enlisted Air Warfare Specialist pins, and eight who qualified as Surface Warfare Officers.

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