SAN DIEGO - Hundreds of friends and family members gathered at Naval Base San Diego Oct. 29 to welcome home the crew of guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) following a seven-month deployment that included regional security, theater security cooperation and maritime presence operations.
The ship and crew of more than 325 personnel deployed April 3 to support the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Carrier Strike Group which included flight operations over Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"The most rewarding part about the opportunity was that I felt like I was helping to protect my family in Korea as well as my family in Virginia," said Fireman Apprentice Samuel Cantrell of Newport News, Va., who has family that still lives in Korea.
Princeton also conducted naval surface fire support with U.S. Marine Corps aircraft assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 and the ship's Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) team provided assistance to five distressed Yemeni fisherman who were stranded at sea with no food or water in the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb.
"Throughout this extended deployment Princeton's crew has performed superbly maintaining an incredible work ethic, total commitment to our mission and pride in our ship." said Capt. Charles P. Good, Princeton's commanding officer. "We're all glad to be safe at home and are looking forward to rejoining the San Diego waterfront and once again being part of this great community."
During the deployment the ship traveled more than 55,000 miles and made port visits to the Republic of Korea, Thailand, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Guam and Pearl Harbor where the crew enjoyed liberty, participated in community service and athletic events and conducted maintenance.
While in Phuket, Thailand, 40 Princeton Sailors participated in a community service project at an elementary school that included interacting with the students and working on beautification projects.
"Community service is our chance to serve the people of the host nation," said Lt. Timothy Seo of Toronto, the ship's chaplain. "Interacting with the host community helps our Sailors to see that deployment and helping others goes beyond the skin of the ship."
Princeton Sailors also had the opportunity to interact with the international community through soccer, playing matches against the Korean sailors as well as teams in Thailand and Pearl Harbor.
"Princeton's team recognized that soccer would be their way to overcome all cultural and ethnic boundaries," said Gunner's Mate 1st Class Oscar Gonzalez, the ship's soccer team captain. "On the field as well as off, we're all just athletes."
This homecoming was especially exciting for Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) 1st Class Rodrigo Torres of Brooklyn, N.Y.
"This is my eighth deployment in 12 years," said Torres. "I've learned to appreciate any time I get to spend with my children. They're what I was most looking forward to returning home to."
Commissioned in 1989, the ship is named for Gen. George Washington's successful series of battles around Princeton, N.J. during the Revolutionary War and is the sixth U.S. Navy ship to bear the name Princeton.