The guided missile destroyer USS Howard left port in San Diego at around 10 a.m. Monday on a routine mission to the Western Pacific that includes Asian waters.
The deployment of more than 300 sailors to the region comes just as tensions are rising between Japan and China. Just last week China launched fighter jets after U.S. aircraft flew into a disputed area in the East China Sea.
China has claimed this area as its own but the U.S. and Japan do not recognize the claim. Nonetheless, the U.S. government has warned passenger airlines to use caution in the region.
While commanding officer David Zook would not talk specifically about the issue, he says he's been keeping up with developments and he and his crew are prepared for anything.
“We rely upon our leadership to make sure we know what to do and where we place ourselves so we’re most prepared to respond to what comes up,” he said.
The ship is expected to be gone close to six months. Many families of the crew said they were happy to be able to spend Thanksgiving together and exchanged Christmas gifts before the crew members shipped out.