Boatswain's Mate Senior Chief Petty Officer Deondra Quarles (left) and Hospitalman Chief Petty Officer Ryan Hildebrand  
121225-N-VE140-015 - Boatswain's Mate Senior Chief Petty Officer Deondra Quarles (left) and Hospitalman Chief Petty Officer Ryan Hildebrand helped serve dinner and clean dishes for Christmas (Photo by by ETSN Davis).
USS Gary Celebrates Christmas Underway in 4th Fleet 
USS GARY, At Sea - Guided missile frigate USS Gary (FFG 51) celebrated Christmas in its own way with some much needed rest, holiday food and even a crew-inspired rendition of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas,' Dec. 24.

The crew was granted holiday routine for the day before Christmas and several members of the crew got together for a Christmas Eve Ironman competition. Although the competition was cut short due to weather, the top finishers were Information Systems Technician 2nd Class William Kienitz, Information Systems Technician 3rd Class Brandon Hunter, and Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Heath Gregory.

"It was a nice competition. I look forward to the real thing in January," Kienitz said.

Later that evening just before taps, the crew was treated to a USS Gary rendition of "Twas the Night Before Christmas," complete with reindeer and Santa Claus' Gary counterparts. The Naval-themed piece was authored by Quartermaster 3rd Class Alvin Braswell.

"It was nice to see how a collaborative effort headed by Braswell really set the mood on Christmas Eve. It was good fun for most at the expense of a few Grinches on board," said Lt. j.g. Christian Gotcher, the ship's navigator.

On Christmas Day, the crew was given holiday routine once again and used it to get rest and exchange gifts. Several divisions on the ship and the Officers' Wardroom had their own secret Santa festivities.

"It was a nice way to build camaraderie among those in the Wardroom. Even though we're far away from our families, it helped make the Wardroom like family," said Ensign Miriam Feild, the ship's newest Officer on her first deployment.

Later that evening, thanks to the hard work and long hours put in by the ship's galley, the crew was treated to a holiday dinner complete with turkey, prime rib, shrimp cocktail, stuffing, an assortment of cakes and even egg nog. The Chiefs' Mess assisted in serving the food and preparing the dishes to give some of USS Gary's culinary specialists a break.

"Even though it was technically a holiday routine, it was a lot of work for us. But, even so, it wasn't too bad as far as Christmas away from home goes. Everyone was in good spirits," said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class John Guevarra.

Gary is homeported in San Diego, and is currently deployed to Central and South America and the Caribbean in support of Operation Martillo and U.S. 4th Fleet's mission, Southern Seas 2012.

Operation Martillo (Spanish for "hammer") is a U.S., European and Western Hemisphere partner nation effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. U.S. military participation is being led by Joint Interagency Task Force South, a component of U.S. Southern Command.

Operation Martillo is part of the U.S. government's coordinated regional security strategy in support of the White House strategy to combat transnational organized crime and the U.S. Central America Security Initiative.

Fourteen countries are participating: Belize, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
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