USS Vella Gulf Public Affairs
Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM)46, Detachment Four returned to its homeport of Naval Station Mayport on Dec. 15, following an eight-month deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operation embarked on guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72).
Vella Gulf departed Norfolk April 23, as an independent deployer, to support maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf. With their ballistic missile defense capability, the cruiser and its crew were an asset there for more than six months.
In July, HSM-46 and Vella Gulf joined the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Carrier Strike Group for three months, during which they conducted air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. They also conducted six multinational operations with Morocco; United Arab Emirates; Pakistan; Iraq; and Kuwait.
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.
With two MH-60R Seahawk helicopters, the air crews logged 670 flight hours and 494 deck landings in support of anti-submarine and surface warfare operations.
The ship visited Manama, Bahrain on four occasions. They also visited Rota, Spain and Agadir, Morocco.
"This is my fourth deployment and every single one has been a learning experience," said Chief Gunner's Mate Anthony Sickler. "This is a very young crew and I am impressed with how quickly we came together to achieve our mission."
The ship's operational requirements extended the deployment but allowed the crew to make it home for the Christmas - New Year's holiday.
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