Mayport, Florida. – About 100 sailors were reunited with their families Saturday morning at Naval Station Mayport after spending nearly four months at sea aboard the USS Milwaukee.
Children, spouses and even pets welcomed their loved ones to the wharf on Saturday.
Petty Officer First Class Luke Mauck was delighted to be back with his wife and one-year-old daughter. His wife, Megan, said it was the longest time they had been apart and the longest he had been away from their daughter.
“She got heavy and she got fat. It’s nice to see them,” said Luke Mauck. “You can see them on the phone, you can talk to them, but actually smelling them and touching them and seeing them is like, wow, that’s pretty crazy.”
NCO Angel Hall was eager to see her one-year-old daughter, her boyfriend and the rest of her family.
“It is unspeakable. It was amazing,” Hall said of his reunion. “It’s getting hard to be out there, but it’s a great feeling to come home.”
Most of their deployment was spent in the Caribbean Sea getting high on drugs.
They seized more than $64 million worth of drugs and worked alongside French, Jamaican and Ecuadorian navy personnel.
And Commander Brian Forster said that’s not all.
“We had to go through the Panama Canal twice which is really cool and we had to do a traditional line crossing ceremony, crossing the equator, which a lot of people can’t do,” said said Forster.
The USS Milwaukee returned less than a week after Navy officials discussed the proposed fiscal year 2023 budget.
At a press conference, Navy officials confirmed their intention to decommission the Freedom-class littoral combat ships. Eight of them are based in Mayport and the USS Milwaukee is one of them.
The Freedom-Class LCS had problems with the gear combination, which is part of their propulsion system.
There’s no timeline on when they would be downgraded — if they eventually are — because that would be early, so Congress would have to grant a waiver.
Congress would also have to approve the budget.
Forster said it was out of his control.
“As the commander of a ship, my most important thing is the readiness of the ship, the readiness of the sailors,” Forster said. “I will always have the ship ready for any mission and the sailors ready for any mission the nation calls for.”
For now, all that matters to these sailors and their families is being at home.
“I have a baseball game for my son. I’m coaching my daughter’s football, and I think we’re going to the Clay County Fair tomorrow,” Forster said.
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