(Via Ho’okele News)
Story and photos by MC2 Diana Quinlan
Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Detachment Hawaii
The Hawaii-based, Ticonderoga-class, guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) returned June 16 from a four-month deployment to the western Pacific.
This is the last time the ship and crew of Lake Erie returns home to Pearl Harbor as they are scheduled to change homeports.
“Capt. Banigan and his team have made a difference,” said Rear Adm. Rick Williams, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific.
“The crew of Lake Erie stepped up and filled a critical need on this deployment. They represent the epitome of the CNO’s tenets: warfighting first, operate forward, be ready. I couldn’t be prouder.”
Capt. John S. Banigan, commanding officer of Lake Erie, spoke about the deployment and ship’s mission in the Pacific.
“While on deployment, Lake Erie leveraged her accomplishments and proficiencies on the test range and defended the homeland and our allies on multiple ballistic missile defense (BMD) operations,” said Banigan.
“We were always begging to go forward-deployed and we got ourselves ready, and we were able to surge and prove that we aren’t just a test ship, that we are fully mission capable,” he said.
According to Banigan, he knows that regardless of home-port, Lake Erie Sailors will lead the way. “It’s bittersweet. We will miss Hawaii, but whatever the mission, we will succeed,” he said.
Lake Erie is expected to replace USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) this summer as a rotational BMD deployer from San Diego, as John Paul Jones takes Lake Erie’s place in Hawaii as the nation’s BMD test ship.
“Hawaii’s great,” said Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Andrew Wolk, assigned to Lake Erie. “This is our best port. Returning back to Hawaii is always beautiful.”
Port visits during the deployment included locations in Korea, Japan and Guam. Lake Erie Sailors were able to participate in several community relations projects including visiting homes for children and assisting the elderly.
The deployment was designed to promote peace and security, preserve freedom of the seas, and conduct theater security operations with partner nations.
“The mission was very successful,” said Operations Specialist 1st Class Hunter Taylor, assigned to Lake Erie. “The morale is high right now. Everyone is just so glad to be back in Pearl Harbor.”
U.S. Navy guided-missile cruisers are multi-mission surface combatants capable of supporting carrier strike groups, amphibious readiness groups, surface action groups or operating independently.
U.S. 3rd Fleet leads naval forces in the eastern Pacific from the west coast of North America to the international dateline and provides the realistic, relevant training necessary for an effective global Navy.