NORFOLK, Jan. 06, 2014 (NNS) - Guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61) and embarked air detachment, the "Vipers" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 48, returned to Naval Station Norfolk, Jan. 5 after completing a nine-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operations.
Monterey deployed April 8 as a ballistic missile defense ship, in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the assigned operating areas.
"Monterey's crew performed amazingly throughout these nine months, contributing so much more to Navy operations during this deployment than was originally intended," said commanding officer, Capt. Rick Cheeseman. "Beginning with numerous maritime security operations in the 5th Fleet area of operations, we answered the call and supported 6th Fleet as well, maintaining a robust maritime presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. Along the way, the Sailors were able to experience port calls in some of the area's most historic places."
Shortly after entering 6th Fleet in April, Monterey conducted an exercise with Albanian authorities in the vicinity of Porto Palermo, Albania, as part of a continuing effort between the U.S. and Albania to improve Albanian maritime domain awareness.
Monterey transited the Suez Canal May 4 to begin its mission in 5th Fleet.
During her time in 5th Fleet, Monterey served as Commander, Task Force (CTF) 50 for three carrier strike groups. As commander, Monterey was responsible for the readiness and support of Navy ballistic missile defense ships in the region. Monterey also participated in two theater security cooperation exercises, two joint air defense exercises, and many other training exercises.
In addition to operating under national tasking in CTF 50, Monterey was also assigned to Coalition Task Force (CTF) 152, a multinational task force comprised of members of the Gulf Coalition Council, along with representatives from the United States and United Kingdom. While assigned to CTF 152, Monterey assisted with theater security cooperation engagements with regional partners while conducting maritime security operations. In conjunction with these operations, Monterey's visit, board, search and seizure team visited more than 50 dhows to collect and share information about the local maritime environment.
Monterey returned to 6th Fleet Oct. 20, after five months operating in 5th Fleet. She relieved USS Barry (DDG 52) on station in the Eastern Mediterranean. While deployed with Monterey, the "Vipers" flew 556 hours, providing security and supporting the ship's missions.
Monterey conducted 11 port visits throughout the deployment, allowing Sailors to explore and experience new cultures, as well as rest and relaxation prior to the next underway.
"I joined the Navy to see the world," said Fire Controlman 3rd Class Brandho Linao. "During this deployment, Monterey took me to a whole new part of the world, the Middle East, where I experienced a totally different and more restricted culture. This made me appreciate more the freedom that we have in the States."
During the port visits, the ship's Morale, Welfare and Recreation provided Sailors with affordable tours to the local historic sites. Monterey's community relations (COMREL) coordinator organized eight projects to help local communities with tasks such as cooking, gardening, and general labor, while experiencing a cultural exchange.
"A COMREL is a unique opportunity for USS Monterey Sailors to interact with the local community," said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Shaun Tiffany, the ship's COMREL coordinator. "It showed the support that we, the United States Navy, are willing and interested in providing."
Sailors aboard Monterey also received 45,000 pounds of mail during 28 underway replenishments and more than 60 flight quarters from the "Desert Hawks" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26.
"I feel like Santa when I deliver mail," said Logistics Specialist 1st Class Dionicio Moreno. "I love my job because I get to see Sailors' faces light up when they receive a package or mail that they are waiting for."
Monterey is the fourth ship named after the battle of Monterrey during the Mexican-American War in 1846.