Family members wished “fair winds and following seas” to USS Gary Wednesday morning as the ship departed on a historic mission.
The guided-missile frigate left Naval Base San Diego on her final deployment after 30 years of service. The U.S. Navy is in the process of phasing out frigates.
“We will be the last West Coast frigate to deploy and the last West Coast frigate to decommission,” said Cmdr. Steven McDowell, Commanding Officer of USS Gary.
The Gary will travel to the Central American coast to support Operation Martillo, a 14-country initiative to thwart drug trafficking.
“We want to catch some bad guys,” McDowell said.
There were plenty of tears as loved ones said their final goodbyes. The ship is expected to be deployed six or seven months.
“We’re going to spend more time apart than together so far in our married life,” said newlywed Victoria Leonard. “Very difficult.”
Despite the sadness, family members said they're excited for their sailors to be part of this historic mission.
"It's awesome. I can't begin to tell you how special I feel and how proud I am of her," said Navy mom Eva Crawford.
“It’s game day. For the better part of last year, we’ve been preparing for this day,” McDowell said.
It's been a busy work-up cycle for USS Gary and her 240 crew members. This summer, the frigate participated in RIMPAC, the world's largest maritime exercise.
The ship returned from a tumultuous deployment in April 2013. Cmdr. James "Slim" Pickens was temporarily relieved of duty because of "offensive comments and behavior" while at sea, according to the Navy.