USS Mason Arrives in Norfolk
Guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) returns Norfolk, Va. from a nine-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility (AOR), April 18.
“This deployment was the culmination of nearly 30 weeks of training, preparation and assessments,” said Cmdr. Mikal Phillips, Mason’s commanding officer. “This crew was extremely well prepared mentally, physically, and emotionally for the entire range of operations they faced.”
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer deployed July 22, 2013, primarily serving as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (CSG) in support of combined task forces (CTF) 55, 150, and 151. Mason also briefly joined the Nimitz CSG earlier in deployment, supporting CTF 58 operations in the Red Sea.
“Regardless of location, strike group or task force, Mason has met every challenge with tenacity and professionalism,” said Master Chief Eric Hovik, Mason’s command master chief. “I feel very fortunate to be part of the Mason family.”
Embarked Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 74, Detachment 3, flew missions almost daily utilizing two MH-60R Seahawk helicopters. The squadron completed more than 1,200 flight hours, 400 sorties and two bilateral helicopter cross decks in support of maritime security operations.
“The integration of the MH-60R is a complete force multiplier,” said Phillips. “The capability and proficiency the pilots and their aircraft bring to anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, command and control, search and rescue, military lift and even medical missions, is astonishing.”
Notable events for Mason included a counter-piracy exercise with elements of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (Navy) in the Gulf of Aden last fall. The combined events included visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS), live-fire proficiency and aviation operations with Chinese destroyer Harbin (DDG 112) and Chinese auxiliary ship Weishanhu (AO 887) to enhance bilateral interoperability between U.S. and Chinese naval assets in the 5th fleet AOR.
Mason’s VBSS team also patrolled the AOR in rigid hull inflatable boats as part of maritime interdiction operations conducting approach and assist visits of fishing dhows to better understand fishing patterns and establish a working rapport with locals.
“We strived to improve relations with local mariners by keeping the waterways safe,” said Lt. j.g. Jeffrey Fasoli, Mason’s ordnance officer. “We not only offered assistance to local dhow masters, but positively influenced the deterrence of piracy, terrorism and both human and drug trafficking in the region.”
Mason conducted port visits to Amsterdam, Netherlands; Aqaba, Jordan; Manama, Bahrain; Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates, and other international ports.
“Mason has executed each port visit with liberty and good conduct ashore as a mission focus,” said Phillips. “From our vigilant watch-standing while in port to the superb and professional conduct displayed by our Sailors on liberty, Mason’s crew has been an excellent ambassador for our Navy and our country.”
Press Release, April 18, 2014; Image: US Navy