Bunker Hill Makes Revolutionary Return
Story Number: NNS030605-01
Release Date: 6/5/2003 8:20:00 AM
By Chief Journalist (SW/FMF) S.A. Thornbloom, Navy Public Affairs Center, San Diego
ABOARD USS BUNKER HILL (NNS) -- Like the Revolutionary War battle it was named after, USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) might now be considered the 21st century warship that helped define another country's revolution.
In June 1775, musket shots were fired at the "whites of 7,000 British eyes" from Bunker's and Breed's Hill outside Boston. In January 1991 and March 2003, Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM) were shot into Iraqi skies from the Ticonderoga-class cruiser Bunker Hill in the Arabian Gulf. The musket volleys from Bunker Hill in 1775 are considered by many the beginning of the first major battle of the Revolutionary War. The TLAM launches from Bunker Hill in 1991 and 2003 are considered the beginning of Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom (OIF).
The dogged determination of Continental Soldiers at Bunker Hill helped lead to the birth of a free nation. That same determination sallied-forth by Sailors aboard Bunker Hill helped lead to the birth of another free nation -- Iraq. And just as the Revolutionary War ended and Minutemen returned to their colonial homes, OIF ended and allowed a victorious Bunker Hill crew to return to a thunderous ovation from thousands of family and friends at the San Diego Navy Base June 1.
"Bunker Hill has certainly proved her mettle, both in Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom," said Commanding Officer, Capt. Faris T. Farwell, Jr. Farwell credited the many crew members over the past 17 years with how well the ship has operated and evolved to meet challenges since it's commissioning in 1986, especially during the recent OIF.
"It's the crew that gets the credit," Farwell said. "Obviously, the ship hasn't gotten any bigger, and the radars are still the same. But the ship has definitely grown in its capabilities. The crew has been trained to go from a single data link in Desert Storm to the most complex (connectivity, electronic and weapon systems) architecture known to man, keeping track of multiple battle groups at sea, in the air and even on land. How Sailors have evolved to meet today's unique challenges has certainly led to the success of this ship over the years."
During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Bunker Hill was part of the USS Constellation (CV 64) Carrier Strike Group (CSG). The Aegis cruiser was one of the first warships to conduct Tomahawk strikes against leadership targets in Iraq. The ship launched a total of 31 missiles during the war. Its embarked Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) helicopter detachment (the Wolfpack from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 45) supported the rescue of U.N. workers being forcibly removed from oil platforms in the northern Arabian Gulf, and provided medical evacuations from the Iraqi city of Umm Qasr.
"Your accelerated deployment to the Arabian Gulf in support of this operation served as an important diplomatic tool for our nation, as we increased pressure on the Iraqi regime," Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of OIF, said in a message to the Constellation CSG. "I have no doubt your efforts directly hastened the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime and the liberation of the Iraqi people."
Many of the more than 350 Bunker Hill crew members who lined the cruiser's rail as the ship slid past the fog-shrouded San Diego skyline, were anxiously anticipating their homecoming with loved ones and reflecting on what they had accomplished during OIF.
"This was my first deployment, and it wasn't that bad," said Gunner's Mate 2nd Class (SW) Louis Swetlik, 21, from Houston.
"I learned a lot about myself. The training I had received wasn't as different in war as being on an exercise."
Other Bunker Hill crew members said they now have a better understanding of the training and preparations they have gone through.
Fire Controlman 3rd Class (SW) Douglas Pieper, 21, of Warren, Mich., and Fire Controlman 3rd Class Clayton Bartels, 24, from Colorado Springs, Colo., were members of the launch team that fired one of the first Tomahawk missiles of OIF at 5:25 a.m. March 20.
"We understand what it's like to actually do what we always train to do," Pieper said.
"We train the way we fight, and fight the way we train," added Bartles.
Pieper called the whole experience that morning leading the start of the war an awesome responsibility. "We had a great team, and there's a lot of pride in all of us."
On this day of homecoming, however, other crew members had just one thing in mind -- seeing their loved ones once again.
"God Bless America, it's great to be back home. The first thing I'll do is take my wife to a nice dinner and spend time with my two daughters and son. It's been a long time, but it's really great to be back home," Signalman 1st Class Anthony Finney, 36, of Macon, Ga., said.
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