USS Ronald Reagan Returns to San Diego

Crew members provided aid during tsunami crisis in Japan


As some in the county were hoping for power to return during the outage, others were looking forward to a return of a different kind Friday morning.

It was a happy homecoming for the thousands of marines and sailors assigned to the USS Ronald Reagan and Carrier Air Wing who docked into Naval Base Coronado just after 8:30 a.m.

More than five thousand marines and sailors were abroad the ship which made its return after a seven-month deployment that began on February 2. The ship was deployed to the Western Pacific and U.S. Central Command, according to a media release.

The USS Chancellorsville and the USS Preble, which are part of the Ronald Regan, returned Friday as well.

"This has been a historic deployment across a wide spectrum of Navy mission areas," said Capt. Thom Burke, Ronald Reagan's commanding officer, in a media release.

Standing with patriotic balloons, children and faces full of anticipation were the families, friends and supporters of those men and women who were sent out to sea.

Though the event seemed largely unaffected by the power outage which struck most of the county Thursday afternoon into Friday, the size of the crowd was down to almost half the number seen in years past.

Between 5,000 and 6,000 people attended Friday's welcome for the Ronald Regan, compared to nearly the 10,000 who have come to view aircraft carrier returns in the past, Naval officials said.

Less than an hour after the Ronald Regan docked, personnel began reuniting with their loved ones.

Among the personnel was 20-year-old Seaman James Dutchover, who said it was his first time being away from home for seven months.

He didn't tell his family when he would be returning, and planned to surprise them at the front. When asked what his mother would do when she saw him Dutchover cheerfully said, "Hopefully [she'll] scream... pretty much give me a big hug - might even pick me up."

Along with their given duties, members abroad the Ronald Reagan participated in a much larger world event.

Crews on the vessel were one of the first ships on the scene off the coast of Japan after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck on March 11, according to officials.

"Every Sailor and Marine on board should feel a great sense of pride and satisfaction," said Burke. "They worked long hours, in tough conditions and I couldn't be happier to be bringing everyone home safely."

As the 219-day deployment wore on, personal on the ship conducted maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and helped establish conditions for regional stability.

Crews also visited Thailand, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Guam and Hawaii.

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