USS Mahan returns to Naval Station Norfolk

Images: WAVY/Marielena Balouris

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Sailors aboard the USS Mahan (DDG 72) returned to Naval Station Norfolk Tuesday morning, following a seven-month deployment.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer came home from a deployment in the Fifth and Sixth Fleet areas of operations.

On Tuesday, Naval Station Norfolk was packed with friends and family members waiting for their loved ones to come home. Taylor Lewis, who lives in California and was waiting for her husband, said, “I’m very anxious, just excited to have him home. It’s been a long, stressful seven months.”

The morning was filled with anticipation, as the crowd held signs and banners for their sailors. When the ship finally returned to her dock, families greeting their sailors with hugs and tears.

“I’ve been waiting to see his face and snap his spine with a hug and I’m just so happy that he’s safe and he’s home and he’s here,” said Carolyn Thayer, whose son was deployed.

Megan Daire, whose husband was deployed, said, “It’s unreal. I can’t even believe it’s happening. It’s been a long seven months.”

The Mahan deployed on Nov. 19, 2016.

During its deployment, Mahan traveled more than 50,000 nautical miles under Cmdr. Marc Davis, the ship’s commanding officer. The crew safely conducted 24 Strait of Hormuz transits, 25 replenishments-at-sea, 50 weapons exercises, 53 small boat operations and 80 flight operations.

In April, the USS Mahan fired a warning flare toward an Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessel coming near it in the Persian Gulf.

USS Mahan fires warning flare at Iran vessel in Persian Gulf

The “Mahan made several attempts to contact the Iranian vessel by bridge-to-bridge radio, issuing warning messages and twice sounding the internationally recognized danger signal of five short blasts with the ship’s whistle, as well as deploying a flare to determine the Iranian vessel’s intentions,” Lt. Ian McConnaughey said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The Iranian vessel came within 1,000 meters (1,100 yards) of the Mahan during the incident, the lieutenant said. The vessel later turned and sailed away.

While in the Fifth Fleet area of operations, the crew participated in a tri-lateral defense exercise with the Iraqi and Kuwaiti Defense Forces. The event served as an opportunity to practice core skills and foster partnership between the two navies. Mahan also participated in joint naval exercises and operations with France, Great Britain, Australia, Denmark and other NATO partners.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the crew – they set the standard for excellence and established a great reputation for themselves out here,” Cmdr. Davis said. “The successes they achieved were impressive, and the crew overcame every challenge they met with poise and precision.”

Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Emmanuel Tejada said the journey was the most satisfying part of the deployment.

“My favorite part of deployment was getting my Enlisted Surface Warfare pin. I got to see how the ship really comes together to work as a whole,” Tejada said. “It was also great to see the other countries during port visits. Experiencing other cultures really opened my eyes to the other areas and what living is like in other parts of the world.”

Tejada’s fellow sailor,  Culinary Specialist 1st Class Marcus Branch, grew anxious as Mahan’s homecoming approached because he knew he would soon be reunited with his spouse and get to see his daughter for the first time.

“Her name is Anahyah Branch and she was born December 5,” Branch said. “I am definitely excited to see her and my family. But at the same time I have a little anxiety. I will be coming home a stranger to her.”

The Mahan last deployed in August 2014 for five months.

That deployment came after 24-year-old Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Mayo of Maryland was fatally shot aboard the ship while trying to protect another sailor.