SAN DIEGO - Amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18), and embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), returned to their homeport of San Diego.
New Orleans had been deployed for more than seven and a half months, assigned missions that stretched across the Pacific and Indian Oceans to the Arabian Gulf and Red Sea. The ship conducted operations and visited local ports in the 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility as part of the Makin Island Readiness Group, along with USS Makin Island (LHD 8) and USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52).
Cmdr. Dennis Jacko, commanding officer of New Orleans, said that the rigorous work-up cycle paid dividends throughout the deployment.
"The crew of New Orleans was more than ready to execute all missions tasked to us throughout the seven month deployment," he said. "We were disaggregated from the rest of the [Amphibious Readiness Group] for almost 95 percent of the time, and the LPD 17 platform proved its worth as a true multi-purpose platform for a variety of missions.
"From theater security cooperation, to counter piracy, to conventional amphibious operations, New Orleans was able to perform superbly across the entire spectrum. With the embarked Marines, as well as their helicopters, and the ability to support Naval Special Warfare units, New Orleans was a varsity player to the operational commander."
While deployed in 7th Fleet, the ship visited Cambodia in December, where New Orleans hosted more than a dozen members of the royal Cambodian navy and support joint operations during Cambodian Marine Exercise (MAREX) 2012.
MAREX is a multi-day theater security cooperation exercise between the U.S. and Cambodian military designed to share expertise related to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief response.
Following MAREX, New Orleans spent Christmas in Singapore.
"This was my first holiday away from home," said Yeoman Seaman Brian Johnson. "It was interesting to spend it in Singapore. Definitely a story I will tell my kids."
New Orleans continued on to 5th Fleet, where the ship had the opportunity to visit Abu Dhabi, hosting a multinational reception for the American ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.
Other port visits in 5th Fleet included Salallah, Oman and Bahrain, in between conducting counter-piracy and national tasking in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea.
New Orleans final 5th Fleet visit took place in Aqaba, Jordan, where Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, visited the Sailors and Marines of New Orleans and 11th MEU.
"It was an honor to meet the SECNAV," said Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Renee Cobrales. "He answered all our questions honestly and thoroughly, and he certainly showed he cares about us."
On its return transit home, New Orleans then returned to the 7th Fleet region, with stops in Phuket, Thailand and Hong Kong, China. Her final visit was to Sasebo, Japan for a one day visit of liberty and swapping out landing craft air cushions (LCACs) to bring those that have been forward deployed back to the United States for refurbishment.
"The deployment was long, but it was great that we got to break up the sea time with quite a few ports," said Information Systems Technician 1st Class Kate Sissini. "Most of the ports I hadn't had a chance to visit before."
While transiting to Pearl Harbor for a one-day stop to pick up supplies and crewmembers' friends and family for a "Tiger" cruise, the New Orleans' embarked 11th MEU hosted a platoon of the Republic of Korea's Marine forces, conducting joint training.
New Orleans left San Diego on November 15, 2011, bringing its total time away from home just past seven months. The ship traveled more than 22,000 nautical miles, stopped in 10 ports, burned more than 2.5 million gallons of fuel, served around 550,000 meals, washed three tons of laundry, sorted 86 tons of mail, launched more than 3,000 personnel with amphibious vehicles from the well deck and launched and recovered more than 1,500 aircraft from the flight deck.
"With a large number of quality port visits, I'm pretty sure that the crew enjoyed this deployment as much as they could," said Jacko. "They all have stories that they will be able to share with their friends and families for years to come."
New Orleans is a San Antonio-class transport dock ship designed and built to fight. Its warfighting capabilities include a state-of-the-art command and control suite, substantially increased vehicle lift capacity, a large flight deck, and advanced ship survivability features that enhance its ability to operate in the unforgiving littoral environment.