NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) Sailors returned to their homeport in Norfolk Nov. 18 after completing a six-month deployment conducting maritime security operations as part of USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Carrier Strike Group operations.
While deployed, Leyte Gulf performed maritime security and intercept operations and supported theater engagement operations in the Arabian Sea. The crew also conducted goodwill visit operations throughout the strike group's 2006 deployment.
In addition, more than 50 crew members were either Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist (ESWS) qualified for the first time or re-qualified.
Capt. Scott Phillpott, commanding officer of Leyte Gulf, said he was proud of those who worked on the qualification.
"Getting ESWS qualified in a war zone is the best way to get it. That was huge," Phillpott said.
Fire Controlman 1st Class Thomas Wright was re-qualified during the deployment.
"I've never seen so many Sailors get up and do it," he said. "We had a pretty motivated crew."
At the pier waiting for the return of Leyte Gulf were family and friends of officers and crew. Command ombudsman Heather Cardenas said that a lot had happened while the Leyte Gulf crew was away, including 10 new babies being born. She also said that the Family Readiness Group helped her and other crew members in times of need.
"The group helped a lot. They came over and moved furniture, cleaned and painted," Cardenas said of flood damage the Family Readiness Group helped her recover from.
Phillpott's wife said that communications with the ship had improved greatly during the deployment.
"We are able to communicate daily now. Communications have improved tremendously almost to the point of instant messaging. On our first cruise, we had a system that was not very reliable," Phillpott's wife said.
Other crew spouses commented on the importance of e-mail availability and the happiness of having the crew come home.
"I did not expect such a wonderful homecoming," said another spouse. "Everyone here looks just like I do, really excited to see someone come home."
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