[ WAR IN IRAQ ]
STAR-BULLETIN / MARCH 15
Family and friends waved goodbye to the crew of the USS Chosin when the cruiser left Pearl Harbor on March 15. While the Chosin is part of the Nimitz battle group in the Persian Gulf area, two other Pearl Harbor-based warships are heading home from the region.
2 Pearl warships leave
Gulf waters for home
Their unprecedented 8-month
deployment included action
in the war against Iraq
By Gregg K. Kakesako
Two Pearl Harbor-based warships -- USS Reuben James and USS Paul Hamilton -- are on their way home after spending an unprecedented eight months at sea, including taking part in the U.S.-led war against Iraq.
For Navy wife Michelle Cloud, it is "a bittersweet occasion."
"They deserve to be back," she said of the frigate Reuben James, which left island waters last August. "But there are those still out there fighting ... and we know what they and their families are going through."
Cloud, whose husband, Petty Officer Palae Cloud, is on his third overseas deployment, said she and her children -- Jayden, 5, and Jazmyn, 9 -- just two nights ago drafted a list of what they want to do when Daddy gets home. It takes up half of a yellow legal pad.
"It ranges all the way from going to Hawaiian Waters Park," Cloud said, "to giving him a lot of hugs and kisses to having him read them a bedtime story."
Cloud said her son, Jayden, is especially proud of just having learned to read.
"Now he wants to read his father a bedtime story."
Cloud said there were at least 15 e-mails on her computer yesterday morning, and she had to field a half-dozen phone calls, several from relatives on the mainland, all wanting to know what it means that the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln was leaving the Persian Gulf.
The Reuben James and destroyer USS Paul Hamilton were part of the seven-warship flotilla protecting the Lincoln.
"It feels amazing," said Cloud, who recalls similar feelings 12 years ago when her husband served on another frigate during the 1991 Desert Storm campaign.
"It was a great day, from watching the news on television of the end of Saddam's regime to learning that Reuben James is finally coming home."
The Lincoln has been at sea longer than any U.S. carrier group now on duty, and this weekend finally received orders to be relieved by the USS Nimitz battle group. The trip from the Persian Gulf to Hawaii will take about a month, with the Lincoln expected to spend a few days here before heading to its home at Everett Naval Station in Washington.
The cruiser USS Chosin from Pearl Harbor is part of the Nimitz battle group.
The Paul Hamilton and Reuben James left Pearl Harbor Aug. 2 and joined up with the Lincoln battle group, which was preparing to return home when its orders were reversed on New Year's Day and it was sent to the Persian Gulf.
Also part of the Lincoln battle group at one time was the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Cheyenne, which left Pearl Harbor on July 31. As policy, the Navy no longer reveals where or how its nuclear submarines are deployed, but that sub also is believed to be homeward bound.
Both the Cheyenne and the Paul Hamilton were among the 30 U.S. Navy and coalition warships and submarines that launched Tomahawk missiles on March 22 shortly before the ground attack on Iraq began.
Therese Lester, whose husband, Cmdr. Edward Lester, took over command of the 445-foot Reuben James a few days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said last week that her husband's ship had been at sea for more than 240 continuous days without a port visit.
She said that her husband, who is on his eighth deployment, described the morale of the crew as being very high.
Since the Reuben James left Pearl Harbor, at least five sailors have become fathers. "Two babies were born within a week of the ship leaving here," Therese Lester said.
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