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USS Saipan Pulls Into Rota After 148 days at Sea

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS030613-05 Release Date: 6/13/2003 7:30:00 AM

By Journalist 3rd Class Amanda Hotz, Naval Station Rota Public Affairs

ROTA, Spain (NNS) -- After 148 days at sea without a port visit, USS Saipan (LHA 2) pulled into port here for the long-awaited 'liberty call.' Saipan stopped for some well-deserved liberty and to take on supplies before continuing their voyage home to Norfolk, Va.

According to Capt. N. L. Hackney, commanding officer of Saipan, the crew was very excited to pull into Rota.

"We have a whole new attitude on this ship," said Hackney the morning before Saipan's arrival. "After 148 days of not walking on land, we are looking forward to Rota. We have a lot of great tours scheduled, and you can just tell the closer we get, the spirits are picking up."

Hackney said it was very interesting to see the crew's moods change during the time out to sea.

"The best description of the crew is they have been upbeat," said Hackney. "How do I know that? It is when I have visitors from other ships and they say 'Hey captain, you know we didn't know what to expect. They haven't been on the beach. They haven't been to a port visit, and your guys are so upbeat. Their morale is so good. This is a great ship to come and visit.'"

Hackney said during the deployment, the workload was a great deal larger than normal.

"Coming over, there was a lot of training," said Hackney. "Things have been constantly running since we left port, so we are really looking forward to pulling into Rota just to have the down time."

Normally, Rota is a working port for Saipan, but they worked ahead so they could partake in some liberty.

"Usually, liberty is limited, because we are cleaning all the vehicles, cleaning all the planes, and we are also cleaning the ship, so we can get our agricultural inspection and go home," said Hackney. "We've done all that. We cleaned everything, got the agricultural inspection on our way back, and this is strictly an 'R and R' port."

Hackney said the Sailors and Marines aboard Saipan were looking forward to Rota, so they could get a little taste of Spain.

"We have a lot of tours set up to get people off the base, out of Rota and go see some of Spain," the captain said.

The historic deployment was a first for some, while others have gone on many, but this deployment was very different, as few have experienced combat operations.

"It is pretty interesting for us," said Crytologic Technician (Collection) 2nd Class Courtni Howard. "This was my first deployment. It was kind of scary at some moments, but all and all, I am really glad that we got to come out here. You see your friends go out there and wait for them to come back. It is kind of hard. In the end, it was worth it. I am glad I was here."

"The deployment overall had its down times and up times," said Marine Cpl. Felix Blanco. "Our deployment was a little slower than I thought it would be. It feels pretty good to get out there and do something and to be part of history."

"I am looking forward to stepping on land other than sand," said Blanco. "I am looking forward to getting out seeing sites and tasting different types of foods."

Hackney believes that the energy of the ship has been very upbeat, because of the honesty she has held with her crew.

"I think part of that is that everything I know, they know," said Hackney. "We have been very honest from what our mission is to what the next challenge is, and they have just gone and done it."

Hackney said the crew has done an incredible job right from the start.

"It has always been 'Captain, we are ready for the challenge. We are ready to go.' I couldn't have asked to work with a better group, and I am extremely proud of them."

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