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Stennis deploys early for Middle East
The U.S.S. John C. Stennis Departed Naval Base Kitsap on Aug. 27 with more than 2,000 sailors on board for what is set to be an eight-month deployment to the Middle East.
Sailor Jacob Gardner cradled his one-month-old daughter Attica and said goodbye to his wife, Anne, as he prepared to board the carrier. A twelve year veteran of the Navy, he said this trip to the Middle East is his sixth deployment. Gardner said he would miss his family, but said his departure was his job and a matter of duty.
“It is something that we have to do,” he said. “It is what we signed up for.”
Anne Gardner said it was difficult with the recent birth of Attica, but said the family would make it through his absence.
“It makes it extra difficult to say goodbye,” Anne Gardner said. “But we will face it head on and get through it.”
Gardner said he felt he was leaving his daughter in good hands with his wife.
“This is our first child and it makes it difficult,” he said. “But, I have faith in her,”
The Stennis is slated for an eighth month deployment, which is twice as long as originally anticipated and also comes four month sooner than planned when the aircraft carrier arrived on March 2. The Stennis will replace the U.S.S Enterprise in the Middle East.
The Stennis was originally set to deploy at the end of the year to U.S. Pacific Command.
Officials at the U.S. Department of Defense said the accelerated deployment is not aimed at any specific threat.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said the deployment was meant to expand military options in the area.
“This is a very important region for our defense strategy,” Little said. “We’ve had a presence in the region for decades and we have a range of interests that this extension of our capabilities will support.”
United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spoke at Naval Base Kitsap a week before the deployment. He had called upon the men and women of the Stennis as they are needed by their country.
“The fact is we still confront some heavy threats in the world” Panetta said. “And you’re the ones who are going to face those threats.”
Panetta said he understood that families would suffer separations, but said he needed the men and women of the Stennis.
“I understand that it’s tough. We are asking an awful lot of each of you,” Panetta said. “But, frankly, you are the best I have, and when the world calls we have to respond.”
For many of the men and women serving on the Stennis, the deployment was a simple matter of doing their job.
For Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Kelsey Strawn, the departure was still too soon.
“It’s hard cause we just got back from deployment and we haven’t had much time to spend with our families,” she said.
Ryan Hood, Strawn’s boyfriend, said he wished he had more time to spend with her.
“It is kind of hard because she just got back and now she has to go,” Hood said.
With more than 2,000 local sailors deploying, Tom Danaher, Public Affairs Spokesman at Naval Base Kitsap said the departure will take many familiar faces away from the area.
“It will be significant for our people to take that many folks out of here,” he said.
Lt. j.g. Clint Tergeson said the departure was a mixture of sorrow and excitement.
“We are all disappointed to leave our families, but we are excited to serve our country,” he said. “We have all known for awhile that this was a possibility.”
Sailor Joshua Hansel said he would miss his four children, but he also said the departure was a matter of duty.
“It’s my job,” he said.
Alyissa Hansel, Joshua’s daughter said she will miss her dad at school and sporting events, but is proud of the work he does.
“I am proud of him. He does a lot for his country,” she said.