PACIFIC OCEAN – Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) celebrated the ship’s 33rd birthday with embarked “tigers”, May 8, during their return voyage to homeport San Diego.
Commissioned on May 3, 1980, Peleliu is returning home from deployment having departed its last port visit, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii May 6. During the Hawaii visit, family members and friends were invited on board Peleliu for a “Tiger Cruise,” to join their Sailor or Marine for the week-long journey.
“The embarkation of family members of Naval and Marine personnel is intended to contribute to good morale and instill in servicemembers a sense of pride in the Navy and their ships,” said Capt. John D. Deehr, commanding officer of Peleliu. “It also enhances public understanding of the Navy and increases community awareness.”
Having family members and friends on board during the ship’s birthday celebration is a unique experience for the crew, having spent the last eight months deployed in the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility. The ship held a steel beach picnic on the flight deck for Sailors and Marines and their tigers so they could all spend quality time together and enjoy all-American charcoal-grilled burgers.
“It’s amazing,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Claire Arnold who brought her father along for the cruise. “It makes me feel closer to home even though we aren’t there yet.”
“I am very proud to be here,” said Joe Arnold, Claire’s father who flew to Hawaii from Avon, Minnesota to join her. “I feel like it’s a privilege that’s been bestowed upon me by the U.S. Navy. Being on the ship and being with my daughter, I get to see what she does and see the important role she plays in our nation’s defense.”
Allowing family members and friends aboard a returning deployed vessel is a time honored tradition for the Navy. Formally known as a “dependent’s cruise,” the Tiger Cruise play an important part in the Navy’s effort to increase understanding between families and the military as well as improve morale and welfare throughout the fleet.
Family members and friends get the unusual chance to see first hand the capabilities of the ship and participate in several activities with their Sailor or Marine, such as Peleliu’s birthday celebration.
At age 33, Peleliu is one of the oldest commissioned warships in the Navy. “I know the ship is old but I’ve noticed it’s in extremely good shape,” said Joe Arnold. “The people on the ship take care of it like they own it and, I know it’s toward the end of it’s service life, but I think all in all this ship has served our country very well.”
The Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group, consisting of the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47), with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked throughout, is returning from an eight-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility.