The guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) returned to Naval Station Norfolk Saturday, marking the successful conclusion of her maiden Ballistic Missile Defense deployment to the Mediterranean Sea. Her commanding officer, Cmdr. Peter K. Nilsen, reflects on the deployment.
Our chief of Naval Operation’s tenets are Warfighting First, Operate Forward and Be Ready. During Cole’s nine-month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea, my crew truly fulfilled all of these.
Cole has a lot of history and pride behind her, but she’s not a museum; she’s an active warship. We provided Ballistic Missile Defense to the Mediterranean Sea as part of Operations Atlantic Sentry and Sharp Sentry. We participated in three joint exercises with the Israeli navy, practicing small boat defense tactics. The crew raised the bar in the 6th Fleet Area of Responsibility for material readiness, maintaining 100 percent operational success. Not only has the ship performed magnificently, but our crew’s personal successes have been astronomical: more than 102 Sailors earned their Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist pins, 88 Sailors advanced in rate, along with eight new chief petty officers.
Of course, liberty is a mission too with the crew enjoying port visits to Spain, Greece, Turkey, Israel and Italy. Cole Sailors were part of a community relations program in Haifa. We repaired homes of local residents – 90 residents were Holocaust survivors. On Sundays underway, we fished off the stern and had steel beach picnics on the flight deck to keep morale high. We also made sure we had television reception to keep up with sports back home.
We’re very blessed to have an outstanding crew. They love what they do and they understand the commitment they’ve made. They have done an outstanding job over the past nine months. Our success is directly indicative of the hard work, the training, the ownership and the pride in what they do. We’re part of something special onboard Cole. The crew understands the legacy of the ship, they understand we have to honor their memories, and we do that by doing our jobs the best we can.
What was your most memorable deployment or homecoming? Let us know by commenting below.