USS PELELIU, At Sea - Sailors and Marines aboard amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) celebrated the new year with a festive pizza night and steel beach picnic Dec. 31 - Jan. 1.
The festivities began with a New Year's Eve celebration in the ship's hangar bay, where the crew played games, sang karaoke and danced while counting down to the new year.
"It's important to provide these guys an outlet so they're not sitting in their racks thinking about home. If you get them out and about together, laughing and having a good time, it takes away the stress," said Information Systems Technician 1st Class Amy L. Tucker, from Carrollton, Ohio, a member of the ship's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) committee. "We try to do things like this to take their mind off of where they are, and what they're doing."
Officers and chief petty officers prepared and served 350 12-inch pizza pies to the crew.
"The chiefs and officers decided to do the pizza this New Year's Eve to give back to the troops," said Lt. Dee L. Barnes, from East Orange, N. J. "They work hard for us every day so why not give back to them on one night?"
For some, it was a new experience to spend the holidays away from friends and family.
"Spending the new year away from home is different," said Fire Controlman 3rd Class Joshua E. Miller, from Long Island, N.Y. "We're all like a big family here, we can't really replace the families we were born to, but they make it easier with events like these."
The night concluded with a final countdown to the midnight hour as a makeshift ball was lowered from the hangar bay's overhead.
The following day, the crew relaxed with a New Year's Day steel beach picnic held on the flight deck. The event was hosted by the Mustang Association with help from Marine Corps officers to grill and serve hotdogs and hamburgers.
"People definitely had a good time," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuel) Airman Brad W. Porter, from Louisville, Ky. "They played football, hung out, and ate. It's a great break from our normal routine."
The time off also helped ease the stress of being deployed during the major holidays.
"Normally it's a 12-to-14 hour day through flight quarters, but today we were given the day off, good food and we got to hang out with people we don't normally get to see on a regular basis," added Porter.
During the steel beach, Capt. John D. Deehr, Peleliu's commanding officer, counted down the last 10 seconds of San Diego's New Year's Eve, where Peleliu is homeported.
The crew enjoyed the rest of the day by playing sports, sumo wrestling and relaxing under the sun, a break that some leaders felt was good for the crew.
"It's a way to show appreciation to all hands, enlisted and officers, E-1 through O-6," added Barnes. "It's a great way to get together, do something good, and forget about where we are, for a few hours."
Peleliu is the flagship for the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility.