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USS Leyte Gulf Returns to Norfolk from Final Deployment Before Decommissioning in September

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Guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf returned Friday to Naval Station Norfolk for the last time as the Navy prepares to decommission the warship later this year.

The cruiser departed Jan. 28 from its Norfolk homeport to support drug interdiction security operations in the Caribbean for three and a half months. The 39-year-old ship, four years past its expected 35-year service life, is scheduled to be decommissioned in September, according to a spokesperson for Naval Surface Forces Atlantic.

“This is a profound final chapter for one of the Navy’s finest ships, and their crew should be proud of all they accomplished,” said Vice Adm. Doug Perry, commander of Norfolk-based U.S. 2nd Fleet.

During its final deployment, the Leyte Gulf partnered with U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment 404 to disrupt the trafficking of 4,100 kilograms of cocaine, according to a 2nd Fleet news release. The team detected and seized three sea-going vessels and a self-propelled semi-submersible with another 2,370 kilograms of illicit drugs on board. The operation resulted in the arrest of 15 narcotics traffickers.

“Our Leyte Gulf team was ready when called upon to execute all three interdictions,” said Capt. Nathan Diaz, commanding officer of the Leyte Gulf. “The successful seizure of more than $42 million in illicit drugs is a testament to the interoperability of our partner nations, the Coast Guard and the Leyte Gulf team.”

Throughout its near four-decade lifespan, the Leyte Gulf has deployed to the Mediterranean, the Arabian Sea, Somalia and the Indian Ocean, the Navy said. Notably, it responded to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, setting sail for the coast of New York alongside aircraft carrier USS George Washington in support of defense and humanitarian efforts.

The ship was constructed in 1985 and commissioned in 1987. It was named after one of World War II’s largest naval battles, The Battle of Leyte Gulf, fought in 1944 in the Philippine Sea. The warship has been homeported at Naval Station Norfolk since 1997, according to Naval Surface Forces Atlantic.

“This ship is full of history. Each period brings its own far-off journeys, along with generations of sailors who have manned the helm,” Diaz said. “Our last deployment was full of sailors who made their own mark on the story of this great warship. Though our namesake comes from a battle long ago, the U.S. is still performing with a level of combat expertise and professionalism that we’ve always had as we protect the homeland.”

©2024 The Virginian-Pilot. Visit pilotonline.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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