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USS John C. Stennis buttons up six-month deployment
As Navy tugs nudged the 100,000-ton USS John C. Stennis closer to Pier Delta at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton, the roar of approval of family and friends increased as the carrier ended a six-month, 56,000 nautical-mile deployment, July 10.
The morning sun brightly amplified Stennis sailors manning the rails in Navy dress white uniforms as everyone on the pier tried to get a visual bead on loved ones on the ship.
For Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Danny Montoya, it wouldn't be hard to find family on the pier, he needed only to look for a homemade placard depicting his home state flag of New Mexico.
His mother, Tammy Montoya, was proudly waving the large placard back and forth searching for her son visually high above.
Tammy is used to the electricity and emotions of a Navy homecoming, not because it was the end of her son's second deployment, but because she has been there.
"Actually, I am a Navy brat, so I am used to this, but it's always exciting. It's so much better these days. I am impressed with how well the Navy has organized all of this," Montoya said. "In the old days, things were tough. A letter would take two to three weeks sometimes to reach you, there was no e-mail, no phone calls from the ship. It's so much better in many areas."
Deployed since mid-January, Stennis' deployment centered around maritime security which included operations with foreign navies as well as port visits to Thailand, Singapore and South Korea. Stennis Sailors enjoyed the local flavor of each of those host countries, while also assisting in 40 community service projects, making repairs or landscaping schools and a number of homes for the elderly.
"Your sons and daughters, your friends, your family onboard served proudly the United States both as warriors and ambassadors for our nation," said Rear Adm. Mark Vance, Commander, Carrier Strike Group 3.
Vance added that besides working with the navies of Japan and South Korea, the carrier took a prominent role in Northern Edge 2009 in Alaska, just prior to returning home, working with the U.S. Air Force.
With the ship's brows firmly secured in place and liberty call announced, Lt. Cmdr. Mike Morgan arrived on the pier and proudly held in each arm his two young sons, amazed at how much they had grown during his deployment, as his wife Cortney proudly looked on.
"This guy right here couldn't even sit up when I left, and this guy here has grown about a foot. I am sure glad I'm back."
Morgan added that mom now gets a rest and prompted his two sons about where they were going next, to which the oldest child chimed in with his dad, "We're going to Chuck E. Cheese.'
Amidst the sea of sailors descending onto the pier and greeting loved ones, Tammy Montoya still hadn't found her son, until another family member came and told her he was already off the ship and waiting down the pier.
"Wow, how did I miss that? I gotta go," she said.