PEARL HARBOR - Family members waved their goodbyes as the guided-missile destroyer USS O'Kane (DDG 77) departed Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a deployment to the Western Pacific Ocean and Arabian Gulf, March 7.
While deployed, O'Kane is scheduled to conduct Theatre Security Cooperation and maritime presence operations with partner nations.
"We're ready to operate forward and take on the challenges ahead," said Cmdr. James Juster, commanding officer of O'Kane. "I'm very grateful for the tremendous support we've received from the Pearl Harbor waterfront, throughout our maintenance and training periods, to ensure we're ready to execute a wide variety of missions while we're deployed."
As Sailors aboard the ship prepared for departure, family members, relatives and friends stood pierside in support and hope to catch a glimpse of their Sailors.
"I am very sad," said Luba Russell, spouse of Petty Officer 3rd Class Heath Russell. "I don't like being separated from my husband, but I am also very proud of him because he does his duty to the United States of America."
Russell also offered advice to other family members coping with separation.
"Be strong, take one day at a time," she said. "Communicate with one another. My husband and I do it through Facebook, Skype and emails. Send boxes of goodies that make them [spouses and Sailors aboard] feel good."
Some family members traveled thousands of miles to see the ship and Sailors leave for deployment.
"We came here from Pennsylvania to see our grandson sail off," said Joyce and Ron Swain, grandparents of Petty Officer 3rd Class Taylor Swain aboard USS O'Kane. "We are very proud of him and all the people who are working with him. We are from a Navy family and are immensely proud, we will miss him, and we hope everyone comes back home safe."
"O'Kane families have been incredibly supportive and understanding during a busy year leading up to this deployment, and that support continues," said Juster. "We sincerely appreciate the daily sacrifices our loved ones make in support of our ability to go forward and carry out our missions overseas."
Service members from across the joint base came to see the departure of USS O'Kane and to show their support for fellow military members. Rear Adm. Rick Williams, Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, boarded the ship and addressed the crew of O'Kane with words of encouragement and appreciation for their dedication to service.
"It is sad to see so many amazing people take off," said Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Nicholas Ryan Johnson, who served aboard USS O'Kane. "It was a pleasure and honor to work with them. The deployments keep getting longer, but these Sailors are tough, they can handle anything that gets thrown at them."
Capt. Chris Bushnell, CDS-31 Commodore, spoke about the ship, its crew and its mission.
"O'Kane is ready to go. We put them through the paces to be ready to operate forward," said Bushnell. "The talent and leadership they have on board is impressive. We look forward to hearing their achievements and seeing their safe return home."