Thursday, December 25, 2014

"Iron Nickel" Returns to San Diego for Final Time

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin Knight, USS Peleliu Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- USS Peleliu (LHA 5) returned to Naval Base San Diego Dec. 24 from a six-month deployment to the Western Pacific.

Upon return, the ship will make preparations to decommission in March after 34 years of service, 17 deployments and more than a million miles transited, and as the last remaining Tarawa-class amphibious assault ship.

During the ship's deployment Peleliu, its crew, Commander, Amphibious Squadron Three, Special Purpose Marine Task Force Three and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21 participated in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014 as part of U.S. 3rd Fleet. Upon assignment to 7th Fleet, the ship embarked Commander, Amphibious Force Seventh Fleet, Commander, Amphibious Squadron 11 and 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and joined USS Germantown (LSD 42) to form the Peleliu Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG).

While deployed, the ARG conducted security and stability operations and exercises throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to include Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) 15 and other maritime cooperation exercises with partner nations.

"Peleliu and her crew performed superbly throughout the deployment, serving as our flagship for the Amphibious Readiness Group," said Commodore Heidi Agle, commander, Amphibious Squadron Eleven. "I am proud to have served with such outstanding Sailors and Marines during the ship's final deployment."

U.S. Pacific Fleet announced in February that USS Green Bay (LPD 20) will be forward deployed to replace the decommissioned USS Denver (LPD 9) in Japan. Peleliu deployed to the Western Pacific to mitigate the gap in amphibious presence.

The ship visited numerous ports including, Apra Harbor, Guam; Sasebo and Okinawa, Japan; Subic Bay, Philippines and Singapore. During the visits, Peleliu competed against partner nation teams during various sporting events and participated in community relations projects.

"Through community relations activities, Peleliu extended efforts to support strong relationships with both U.S.-based partners as well as regional allies and friends throughout the Western Pacific," said Cmdr. Jack Carver, the ship's chaplain. "They also offered our Sailors and Marines the opportunity to learn and develop an appreciation for the rich cultural heritage."

Over the course of deployment, Peleliu transited more than 25,000 nautical miles, conducted the safe launch and recovery of more than 50 Landing Craft Utility, 30 Landing Craft Air Cushion, and 25 Amphibious Assault Vehicle ship to shore movements, as well as carrier and deck landing qualifications and operations for U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aircraft squadrons, U.S. Army 160th Airborne and foreign aircraft from Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Argentina.

Peleliu is named for the Battle of Peleliu during World War II where 1,256 Marines gave their lives to take Peleliu.

"The crew routinely stepped up and exceeded my expectations during this challenging final deployment and I know that would not have been possible without the enormous support of our families and friends back at home" said Capt. Paul Spedero, commanding officer of Peleliu. "I'm proud of this crew and their dedicated families."

Joint, interagency and international relationships strengthen U.S. 3rd Fleet's ability to respond to crises and protect the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners.

Hagel Calls Service Members on Christmas, Thanks Them for Service to Nation

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Dec. 25, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today called service members taking part in U.S. operations around the world to wish them a Merry Christmas, according to Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby.

In a DoD News Release, Kirby said “Secretary Hagel expressed his appreciation for their service in defending the United States, and supporting our allies and partners.

“In each of the calls, Secretary Hagel noted that he knows how difficult it is to be away from home on this holiday and thanked the service members and their families for their sacrifice for the nation,” Kirby said.

Hagel spoke with representatives from each military service, including:

- Army Spc. Randolph A. Priest, of Barren Springs, Va. Priest is a communications specialist serving in Afghanistan, who is responsible for ensuring reliable communications between the headquarters and soldiers.

- Air Force Capt. Laura A. Klepper, of Palmdale, Calif.  Klepper is an F-15E weapon system officer deployed to the Central Command area of responsibility, providing combat airpower in support of regional missions. She was selected as her squadron’s flight commander of the year.

- Marine Corps Cpl. Thomas A. Vasko, Jr., of Medina, Ohio.  Vasko is an infantry advisor in Afghanistan, training allies in how to conduct patrols to prevent enemy freedom of movement and indirect fire attacks. He is also an assistant patrol leader.

- Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Taylor A. Porter, of Dayton, Wash. Porter is deployed to the Central Command area of responsibility and leads an 11-person team in ensuring aviation equipment is maintained and safe for flight. She was selected as her squadron’s maintainer of the year and led the stand-up of a unit supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.

“The secretary was delighted to be able to reach these service members, forward deployed as they are, and to wish them his best for the holiday,” Kirby said. “He asked that each pass on his best wishes to their units as well. The secretary was very grateful for the time these young leaders gave him.”