PACIFIC OCEAN (NOV. 18, 2017) — There seems to be something in the air aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70). Sailors are laughing and smiling with ease. It appears as though a weight as been lifted and they can finally enjoy the view of the open water.
“I can’t wait to get home,” said Information Systems Technician 1st Class Brodie Clark, a native of Henderson, Nevada. “My wife, Lucia, and I are expecting our first child in January. We found out we were expecting right after our first port visit, so I think the timing is perfect.”
As the end of a seven month deployment to the 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility draws near, the Sailors aboard the cruiser are finally making preparations to go home and morale is at an all-time high.
Safety trainings are held weekly and everyone on board is frequently reminded by Capt. Darren McPherson, commanding officer, that now is not the time for complacency. Everyone maintains their focus, ensuring they perform with safety in mind. But, as the end of the deployment approaches, the Sailors take time to reflect on the past several months.
“This was my fourth deployment and it has definitely been my best one,” said Clark. “I have a baby on the way so it was very important to stay connected to my wife. We spoke every day via phone or email. I started an Amazon wish list and want to throw my wife a baby shower when I get back. We had a game plan to save money and we did it.”
Prior to the deployment, many Sailors were told to make a list of goals for themselves to keep them on track.
“My goal for deployment was to get rate-specific qualifications,” said Gas Turbine Systems Technician Fireman Crystal Turner, from Sanford, Florida. “So far, I have gotten three, but I am still working on it. I wanted to get to a point where I knew my job well. Hopefully, I hear my name when they announce who advanced to petty officer.”
Some Sailors experience apprehension when it comes to their return home.
“Sometimes I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot,” said Turner. “I hate the thought of not getting to be there for my nephew. I worry that he won’t miss me or that when I see him we won’t recognize each other.”
The Lake Erie Sailors have been given an opportunity to attend classes sponsored by Fleet and Family Services, where they are encouraged to participate in all discussion topics that pertain to them.
“I work for Fleet and Family,” said Jason Petty, a native of Louisville, Kentucky, and a retired U.S Navy Sailor himself. “I’m here to help the Sailors get ready to go home. I’m providing them with tools that will help them for some of the situations they may face during their reintegration.”
Some of the classes the Sailors have been taking include topics on: returning to intimacy, returning to children; new parents, stress and anger management, and suicide prevention.
“It’s very common for Sailors to have mixed emotions about returning home,” said Petty. “These folks just spent seven months trying to figure out life on the ship and now they are going home and things may be different. There may be some awkwardness. They may feel out of place for a little bit. They may have a problem figuring out their role at home. All of this is normal.”
Petty provides an open discussion with the Sailors and gives them tips on how to overcome challenges.
“Something that I always recommend to Sailors is to make a list of gratitude,” said Petty. “Make of list of things you are lucky to have and feel grateful for. If a Sailor can focus on that than I can assure you that this will outweigh any issue they may have.”
Many of the Sailors are finding the classes helpful and beneficial.
“I absolutely thought the classes were helpful,” said Clark. “I’ve encouraged all my junior Sailors to attend them. My favorite was the one about returning as a new parent. My wife has been doing an incredible job and thankfully the pregnancy has been a good one. I want to be there for her and our baby girl. We’re naming her Isabelle.”
As Lake Erie returns to homeport in San Diego, the Sailors should be proud of all they have accomplished. The sight of family and friends is sure to be a highlight of the entire voyage.
Lake Erie is on a regularly scheduled, independent deployment, currently in the 7th Fleet area of operations in support of the collective maritime interests of allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
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