By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Mark Logico, Commander Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs
April 5, 2010 - PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- The Pearl Harbor based guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) returned from a four-month deployment in the Western Pacific April 1.
Family members waited patiently as the ship and crew of approximately 340 officers and enlisted personnel, commanded by Capt. Ronald Boxall arrived at the pier.
"It hasn't been extremely too long," said Ashleigh Whitecotton, wife of Ensign Robert Whitecotton and mother of a 17-month-old daughter. "It's just having a little one that's the hardest thing, just her not seeing her daddy."
Francie Sturgeon, a new mother and wife of Gas Turbine System Technician Mechanical 3rd Class David Sturgeon, also carried her three-month-old daughter during the homecoming while waiting for her Sailor. She said the deployment wasn't very hard on her because of email.
"We have been sending email and pictures to each other," said Francie. "David probably has more than 300 pictures of our daughter. We are excited. Our family is home now."
Lake Erie Command Master Chief (SW) Brian Ortega said that the main mission of the ship is to interact, train and build relations with several partner nations.
"It was a good experience," said Ortega. "The Sailors learned a lot when we engaged with the foreign countries, strengthening our partnerships throughout the world."
Lake Erie Sailors volunteered for a Habitat for Humanity community relations project in Thailand, where Sailors assisted in constructing new homes for families in need.
Continuing their volunteer efforts throughout the deployment, Lake Erie Sailors again helped bring vital supplies to the Banglamung Hospital in Thailand, unloading a pallet full of medical and hygiene supplies.
Ortega said his Sailors were able to interact and play with the children at the pediatric ward of the hospital.
"That was a good experience for our Sailors," said Ortega. He also said that the ship participated in several exercises involving, Thai, Philippine, Korean and Malaysian militaries.
Later in the deployment, Lake Erie hosted senior enlisted military service members from the Republic of the Philippines navy, marines and the air force during a port visit to Manila, Philippines, March 11.
"We were able to see a lot of ports, and that's good," sad Ortega. "The Sailors joined the Navy to see the world. We hosted a luncheon in Manila, where not many U.S. Navy ships go to anymore. We hosted a luncheon for the host nation's senior leadership. We had senior members from the Philippine air force, navy and marines aboard our ship for lunch."
U.S. Navy guided-missile cruisers perform primarily in a battle force role. These ships are multi-mission air warfare, undersea warfare, naval surface fire support and surface warfare surface combatants capable of supporting carrier strike groups, amphibious forces, or of operating independently and as flagships of surface action groups.
"The highlight of the deployment was getting out Sailors qualified, improving the professional development of all shipmates that were aboard," said Ortega. "We qualified over 70 enlisted warfare specialists and enlisted aviation warfare specialist."