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Navy Public Affairs Center, Norfolk, Va.

Deployment Complete For Sailors, Marines


December 22, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Navy Public Affairs Center, Norfolk, Va.. All rights reserved.

NORFOLK, Va. - More than 6,000 sailors and Marines in the USS Wasp (LHD 1) Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) returned to their homeport of Norfolk, Va., this fall after completing their first deployment as an ESG. The crew arrived home from supporting the global war on terrorism in time to get back into their shore routine for this holiday season.

Among those on board the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) is Airman Jonathan Casillas, who is an aircraft elevator operator.

Casillas is the son-in-law of Eduardo Liciag of Holyoke.

"It's my job to keep records for flight deck control. If the aircraft handling officer were to forget where in an operation we were, the log book I maintain would let him know," said Casillas.

Casillas' ship serves as a primary landing vessel for the ESG, much like an aircraft carrier, to put troops on shore. Wasp is the flagship for the recently created Naval concept of an ESG, which combines the flexibility and power of the traditional amphibious ready group with the Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The crew was busy during their recent deployment, but with each port call they were able to experience something new. Traveling to places such as Jebel Ali, Seychelles, and Rota, Spain, allowed Wasp sailors to experience the diversity of life overseas.

"Seeing other countries and their cultures was the most interesting thing about our last deployment. I went on a tour in Malta and learned a lot about their history. I was surprised to find that many of the island's castles resembled those of my native Puerto Rico," he said.

With the experience of traveling overseas comes an understanding of new places and people, and for those on board Wasp it was no different.

"I've heard plenty about other countries, but actually getting to visit them gives you a brand new perspective on the world. I hope to go back soon to these wonderful places, even if being there requires careful behavior," said Casillas.

The upcoming holidays present them with little time to relax after the fast pace of life at sea, but some have also taken this time to pursue additional goals. Many members of the crew have taken advantage of being home again by making the time to begin or continue with their pursuit of higher education. In addition, they have also had time to work on shipboard qualifications, such as warfare pins.

"I've got goals set up and I'll work hard to accomplish them, but I mostly aim to just be close to the ones I love," Casillas said.

Even though life at sea can be hard for sailors like Casillas, doing their job brought them memories they will carry with them for many years to come. The return of USS Wasp has brought a large number of hardworking sailors and Marines home, but even with their return, yet another group will leave and continue on with the fight against terrorism.


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