USS VICKSBURG, At Sea (NNS) -- Guided-missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69) departed its homeport of Mayport, Fla., March 9 to make its final deployment, this time as part of the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group.
Family members, friends and well-wishers gathered on the pier in the early morning hours to bid farewell to loved ones and wish them good luck.
"This is the first time I've deployed," said Cryptologic Technician (Technical) 3rd Class Ronnie Mathis temporarily assigned to Vicksburg from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71).
"It was difficult to leave my six-week old daughter and wife behind, but the crew is really nice and is helping me get through it," said Mathis.
Deploying can be challenging for a lot of Sailors, even seasoned veterans who still must make sure all affairs ashore are in order.
"It doesn't really get any easier," said Navy Counselor 1st Class Brian S. Olinger, the career counselor aboard Vicksburg. "I've been in the Navy for 19 years and this is my fifth and final sea deployment. No one wants to leave their loved ones behind, but we have a mission."
This deployment marks the end of Vicksburg's 20 years of service since its commissioning in 1992.
"The mission must come first, the mission is why we are here in the first place," said Ensign Michael E. Fitzpatrick, first lieutenant for Vicksburg. "The crew understands that and they are very professional."
Although this is the last deployment for Vicksburg, mission readiness is still the key to success.
"We must not view this deployment in terms of being the last deployment," said Capt. Logan Jones, commanding officer of Vicksburg. "We are not looking for any final glory."
Jones also said that "at the end of the day we know that we will have served with honor, but we must not react differently than we normally would in any given situation."
Vicksburg's commanding officer is just one of the ship's crew looking forward to completing a successful deployment as part of the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group team.
"I look forward to a deployment of working with maritime partners, flying missions and providing security," said Jones. "My job is to leave with 370 Sailors and return with 370 Sailors and that is what I intend to do."
Vicksburg is scheduled to decommission in 2013.
The Enterprise Carrier Strike Group is comprised of Enterprise, Carrier Air Wing 1, Destroyer Squadron 2, Vicksburg (CG 69), and guided-missile destroyers USS Porter (DDG 78), USS Nitze (DDG 94), and USS James E. Williams (DDG 95).
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