NORFOLK, Va. - An aircraft carrier strike group departed on a nine-month deployment Wednesday that the Navy says will be the longest of its type in a decade.
Routine deployments typically last six to seven months, but the Navy says the extended period is necessary to give other ships maintenance and down time.
"I think that anybody can do the math and if you continue to downsize your forces and you have the same or increasing presence requirements around the world you're going to find that the deployments will get longer," said Rear Adm. Michael Manazir, commander of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group.
The Norfolk-based ships of the strike group include the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and the guided-missile destroyers USS Winston S. Churchill and USS Jason Dunham. The strike group also includes the guided-missile cruiser USS Hue City and the guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut, which are both based in Mayport, Fla.
The deployment is the first for the USS Jason Dunham. Dozens of family members came out to a pier at Naval Station Norfolk to say goodbye to their loved ones on the ship.
Dominique Rambus wore a T-shirt that said Navy Wife as she and her five-month- old son watched the destroyer carrying her husband, Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandon Rambus, pull away.
"I think with my son I'm going to be OK," she said. "I'm sure he's going to keep me entertained and keep me going. Even when I'm sad, he'll smile and will do something and remind me of his dad."
The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower will take the place of the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Navy's rotation of aircraft carriers in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The Lincoln is also the last aircraft carrier to face such a lengthy deployment, staying out to sea for 291 days in 2002.
Capt. Marcus Hitchcock, commanding officer of the Eisenhower, said that despite the lengthy deployment, his sailors are excited about what lies ahead.
"We've been very honest with these sailors, and like I said, they're just as upbeat as sailors going on a six-month deployment, in my experience. They're ready to go," Hitchcock said.
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