SAN DIEGO - Amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) returned to its homeport of San Diego following completion of the ship's historic maiden deployment.
During the seven-month deployment, the ship's hybrid-electric propulsion system saved more than four million gallons of fuel resulting in an estimated cost savings in excess of $15 million.
The ship's hybrid-electric propulsion system is designed to run on auxiliary propulsion motors at low speeds and on gas turbines at higher speeds. This technology allows the Department of the Navy to reduce the use of fossil fuels which leads to overall cost savings.
"Our Sailors and Marines successfully met every mission during our historical maiden deployment in support of the nation's maritime strategy," said Capt. Cedric Pringle, Makin Island's commanding officer. "As the Navy's first operational test platform for this hybrid-electric propulsion system, our fuel efficiency directly enhanced the ability to operate forward for longer. Additionally, our significant fuel cost savings, coupled with our lessons learned, will serve as a solid foundation for optimizing this ship, as well as current and future ship designs. The value of our first deployment will continue to increase, as we assess required refinements in engineering subsystems, training, and logistics support."
Pringle said that while the equipment did play an important role during the deployment, it was the people serving aboard Makin Island who made sure the ship successfully executed all missions with precision.
"Our teamwork and commitment to excellence allowed us to exceed all expectations," said Pringle. "Makin Island Sailors and Marines were also excellent ambassadors for the United States during every port visit we made during the deployment."
While deployed, the more than 2,100 Sailors and Marines from the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) serving aboard Makin Island conducted maritime security operations and theater security cooperation exercises and events in the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility.
Makin Island also served as the platform for the first operational deployment of the four-blade AH-1Z Viper helicopter. When deployed with the UH-1Y helicopter, the "Yankee-Zulu" package replaces the older two-blade Marine Corps AH-1W and UH-1N helicopters.
The new helicopters can carry an additional 2,000 to 4,000 pounds, travel faster and conduct combat operations from a safer distance. The AH-1Z and UH-1Y also share an 85 percent parts commonality, which streamlines training and maintenance.
The ship received a number of awards during the deployment including the 2012 Ney Award for Excellence in Food Service. Makin Island also achieved a 42 percent advancement rate during the most recent enlisted advancement cycle, 12 percent higher than the Navy-wide average of 30 percent.
In addition, Sailors and Marines from Makin Island participated in a variety of community relations activities in three different countries during the deployment. These projects include spending time with needy children and the elderly, making improvements to local schools and orphanages, and taking care of abandoned cats and dogs at animal shelters.
During the deployment, Makin Island made port visits to Singapore, Bahrain, Jordan, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
More than 200 family members joined the Sailors and Marines on the final leg of the deployment, from Hawaii to California, as part of a scheduled Tiger Cruise.
Makin Island served as the flagship for the three-ship Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), which also included amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52).
"In addition to the MSO mission, Amphibious Ready Groups bring flexible assets into the theater that allow fleet commanders the ability to deliver combat forces, support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions as well as noncombatant evacuations," said Capt. Donald Cuddington, commander, Amphibious Squadron 5. "During this deployment, the Sailors and Marines of the Makin Island ARG took part in a number of exercises and TSC events in support of our nation's maritime strategy."
Cuddington said a key component of the U.S. maritime strategy is building regional partnerships to ensure security, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.
"Our deployment is proof of just that, and that we are a professionally trained fighting force also capable of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief if needed," said Cuddington.
Makin Island is the first U.S. Navy ship to deploy using a hybrid-electric propulsion system. By using this unique propulsion system, the Navy expects over the course of the ship's lifecycle, to see fuel savings of more than $250 million, proving the Navy's commitment to energy awareness and conservation.
This initiative is one of many throughout the Navy and Marine Corps that will enable the Department of the Navy to achieve the Secretary of the Navy's energy goals to improve the nation's energy security and efficiency afloat and ashore, increase our energy independence and help lead the nation toward a clean energy economy.
Commissioned in 2009, Makin Island is named in honor of the World War II raid carried out by Marine Raider Companies A and B, 2nd Raider Battalion on Japanese occupied Makin Island Aug. 17-18, 1942. LHD 8 is the second ship to bear the name "USS Makin Island."