NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — More than 7,000 sailors with the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group returned home Monday morning to Naval Station Norfolk.
Both the USS George H.W. Bush and the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun arrived in Norfolk following a seven-month deployment to the Navy’s 5th and 6th fleet area of operations.
While deployed, the strike group conducted maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and missions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve over Iraq and Syria.
Gallery: Bush Carrier Strike Group Homecoming
Families, friends and loved ones of sailors began gathering at the base early Monday morning, hours before the ships’ arrival.
Connie Adams drove from Texas to welcome her son home from his first deployment.
“Excited, anxious, very emotional… We watch the news anxiously and wait for emails, but I’ve been very proud of him,” she said.
At the other end of the pier, Shadajah Melendez was waiting on her husband, soon to meet their baby girl Nyalise, born shortly after the ship went out to sea.
“I feel overwhelmed. I’m so excited. I actually feel like I’m scratching on walls right now, waiting for him to come out,” Melendez said.
Nearby, Cheyenne Forbes held her newborn baby boy Easton.
“Excited, trying not to cry,” she said.
Her husband was among the first lucky few off the ship.
“The day he was born was the best and the worst day of my life. You know, we came out here to do what we had to do, just coming home today is the best feeling,” said PO2 Dillon Forbes, holding Easton for the first time.
Rear Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, Commander of Carrier Strike Group Two, called it a historic deployment.
“Remember when we left, with Secretary of Defense Mattis, he said our mission as a military was pretty clear — the annihilation of ISIS, and that’s what we did, as we worked through Mosul and as well as Raqqa,” he said. “Significant events, like the liberation of Mosul, Syrian strikes, interactions with Iranian and Russian forces, and Exercise Saxon Warrior with HMS Queen Elizabeth made for an exciting and professionally rewarding deployment.”
The strike group’s homecoming included more than 300 men and women, and 58 aircraft, of Carrier Air Wing Eight.
The air wing deployed with the George H.W. Bush in January. Officials say there were more than 30,800 flight hours logged — including over 12,000 in combat — during the deployment.
The first squadron returned to Chambers Field on Thursday — with the rest returning Friday to either Chambers or Naval Air Station Oceana.