Hundreds of sailors deploy on USS Oak Hill

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 26, 2017) The amphibious dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) receives a vertical replenishment from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Big Horn (T-AO 198). Iwo Jima, components of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit are conducting a Combined Composite Training Unit Exercise that is the culmination of training for the Navy-Marine Corps team and will certify them for deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Dary M. Patten/Released)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Hundreds of sailors aboard the USS Oak Hill deployed Friday from Virginia Beach.

Officials with the U.S. Navy say the Oak Hill, from Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, will be out at sea for six months.

“It’s been hectic getting up to this point but I’m glad all the hard parts over,” said Petty Officer 3rd class, Nicholas Cumberbatch.

The deployment is part of a regular rotation.

“It’s hard no matter what it’s just hard because it’s going to be 6 to 9 months of when?” said Samuel Stokes.

Stokes and his girlfriend recently got engaged and this is their first deployment.

He says it’s a rough one.

“I’m a little upset but I understand it so I’ve come to terms with it,” he added.

“You don’t want to feel too much emotion because you don’t want to make it hard for those that you’re leaving,” said Cumberbatch.

However, not everyone was sad.

The commanding officer of the USS Oak Hill says even though this is his sixth or seventh deployment, he still gets butterflies.

“I’m ecstatic, I’m very excited, completely honored to be a part of this incredible crew,” said Phillip Knight.

Knight says first they’re headed down the coast of North Carolina to pick up Marines that are part of the MUE.

The dock landing ship was part of a local response to three major hurricanes last fall. Oak Hill sailors were initially deployed Aug. 31 after Hurricane Harvey, before being redirected after hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Cmdr. Nakia Cooper said last fall, “We had a landing craft utility on-board with us, and a bunch of disaster relief teams that we put ashore to actually go in and do route clearance, clean up for mudslides, tree debris, debris that blew around the island so that we could actually get the commodities flowing around the island.”

According to the Department of Defense, the Oak Hill largely contributed helicopter support during its hurricane relief mission.

The Oak Hill’s latest mission includes security operations in Europe and the Middle East. Officials say the nearly 400 sailors on the Oak Hill are part of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG).

Once deployed, the Oak Hill will join up with the USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) and USS New York (LPD 19).