NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- Guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio (CG 68) returned to its homeport of Norfolk, Va., Dec. 10, after completing a seven-month deployment in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility (AOR).
The first Sailor off the ship was Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Simon Johns, winner of the "First Kiss" raffle hosted by Anzio's Family Readiness Group and First Class Petty Officer Association. The ticket that won Johns this coveted honor was purchased by his wife, Tracy, who only purchased one ticket. She, like many others, hoped to be the first to see her loved one.
"I feel very blessed to be able to have the first kiss with my husband," Tracy said. "After not seeing him for seven months, this is truly be a moment I will never forget."
"I have been on board Anzio for a little more than four and a half years, and I can't imagine a better way to end my tour than to have the first kiss with the woman I love more than anything," Johns added.
Next in line to leave the ship were the 12 Sailors whose children were born while Anzio was deployed.
"There is no better feeling than being able to hold your child for the first time," said Operations Specialist 1st Class Brandon Thompson.
Sixty-eight Anzio family members and friends were able to see their Sailor earlier when Anzio pulled into Mayport, Fla., Dec. 8 to pick them up for a "Tiger Cruise," which allows family members and friends to experience the daily routine of their Sailor and understand firsthand what it is like to eat, sleep and live on a U.S. Navy ship. There were several activities the guests were able to observe, including a replenishment-at-sea, an air show, a tour of the ship and a drag race between the ships in the strike group.
"The cruise is fantastic! It makes you proud of your country, proud of the Navy and what it stands for," said Ken Cain, father of Operations Specialist Seaman Apprentice Brandon Cain. "You see in the Navy ads, 'A Global Force for Good,' and this makes you feel it's really true."
Anzio spent five out of its seven months deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR conducting counter-piracy missions as the flagship for Combined Task Force (CTF) 151.
The ship patrolled the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Somali Basin and Arabian Sea, ensuring the safety of other vessels. The ship also provided humanitarian aid to seven stranded Somali mariners when their small boat experienced an engine failure. Anzio towed the mariners' small boat for the night after bringing the men aboard. The mariners were provided food and a place to sleep and returned home the following morning.
"I couldn't be more proud of this crew. They were true professionals at every mission we were tasked with and ambassadors in every port visit conducted. They really reflect why the U.S. Navy Sailor is special," said Capt. John Dorey, Anzio's commanding officer. "This crew has more than earned a great holiday with family."
The crew of Anzio plans on enjoying time with family over the holiday season before assisting the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group with work-up cycles for their upcoming deployment. Afterwards, Anzio is scheduled for a maintenance period.
Anzio was deployed with the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group, which included the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), Carrier Strike Group 2 staff, Carrier Air Wing 8, Destroyer Squadron 22 staff, guided-missile cruisers Anzio and USS Gettysburg (CG 64) and guided-missile destroyers USS Mitscher (DDG 57) and USS Truxtun (DDG 103).
For more news from USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn77/.