SAN DIEGO - The guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) returned to its homeport of San Diego May 6, after completing a seven-month independent deployment in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
While on deployment, Lake Champlain patrolled the Horn of Africa and Northern Arabian seas as part of Command Task Force 151's anti-piracy operations, found and destroyed pirate skiffs being towed in the Indian Ocean, and represented the United States in the Aman 2011 multi-national naval exercise hosted by Pakistan in the North Arabian Sea.
Crew members also participated in two anti-submarine warfare exercises with the Royal Australian Navy and the Italian Navy, and rescued 49 Somali migrates who were stranded at sea in the Persian Gulf.
"This deployment was not the conventional deployment usually witnessed by a cruiser from the West Coast," said Capt. Mark Johnson, USS Lake Champlain commanding officer.
"Instead of journeying across the Western Pacific as the primary Air Defense Commander for a Carrier Strike Group, Lake Champlain had the unique opportunity to transit east through the Panama Canal and Atlantic Ocean to the 5th Fleet area of responsibility as an independent deployer, where we served in a myriad of roles to include counter-narcotic, counter-piracy operations, and humanitarian assistance efforts," said Johnson.
A highlight of the deployment for many of the Sailors was after the rescue at sea and the following weeks when they had the 49 Somali migrants on board.
"It was something I'll never forget," said Yeoman Seaman Darius Sampson. "When we rescued them from out at sea they were all in pretty poor health, and we helped them get back into top form before they left the ship. It just made me proud to be from the United States and made me think about how fortunate I am to have been raised in America."
After the migrants were healthy enough to travel, they were sent to a refugee camp in Ethiopia where they would have opportunity to claim refugee status and stay in the country or return to Somalia.
In addition to the various seagoing operations, Lake Champlain crew members volunteered more than 60 man-hours while engaging in four community relations events in Souda Bay, Greece; Manama, Bahrain; Port Victoria, Seychelles and Taranto, Italy as part of Operation Handclasp.
"I am personally very proud of our Sailors who took time out of their precious liberty to act as ambassadors from the United States," said Lt. David Carlson, USS Lake Champlain chaplain and community relations coordinator. "They participated in multiple different activities from painting and cleaning, to playing sports and reading to children with special needs. I'm very proud of those who took time to participate."
Lake Champlain, after a brief stay in San Diego, will be preparing to take part in the Portland Rose Festival in june before entering a scheduled maintenance period.
"When our Sailors look back on this deployment I think they will look back with pride," said Johnson. "This deployment was an overall success as our crew was able to test our combat readiness as a warship through maintenance and training exercises, and as a protector of the high seas in promoting peace and security around the globe."