Proud families welcome home USS Detroit at Naval Station Mayport

Reunions might look different amid pandemic, but they mean the same for loved ones

NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. – Littoral Combat Ship USS Detroit returned to Naval Station Mayport on Saturday from a counter-narcotics deployment after four months at sea. It was serving a deployment to the US 4th Fleet.

During its deployment, teams disrupted an estimated 1,780 kilograms of cocaine worth an estimated wholesale value of $124 million.

“It’s not one that’s visible to a lot of Americans, but it really is important because it saves American lives by preventing the flow of illicit drugs narcotics,” said Admiral Don Gabrielson, who told News4Jax it is a $90 billion industry and these teams are helping save American lives.

Combat ship USS Detroit returned to Naval Station Mayport from a counter-narcotics deployment after four months at sea.
Combat ship USS Detroit returned to Naval Station Mayport from a counter-narcotics deployment after four months at sea. (WJXT)

Families were overjoyed as they held signs and reunited with their loved ones after a four-month deployment.

“I’ve been waiting for this,” said Shawn Wigley, who was first off USS Detroit to meet his newborn son, Xavier. “It’s amazing, especially me being gone and everything she had to go through with Xavier.”

Before the pandemic, families would typically line the pier with signs, excited to reunite with their loved ones, but that doesn’t happen anymore because of coronavirus. Now families are outside the fenced area waiting in the parking lot. Nevertheless -- the reunion is still meaningful.

“It’s the most joyous moment. I can’t wait to be back,” said Lauren Valot. Her daughter said she’s excited to play with her dad.

A Naval Station Mayport spokesperson said the Littoral Combat Ship, or LCS, has a crew of 72 onboard. It's a smaller ship, sleek, fast and mission-focused. The USS Detroit worked with the U-S Coast Guard and a helicopter squadron on board.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the men and women in the Navy are still working hard and deployed for missions.

“It’s not just my husband. It’s us as a family trying to stay healthy, wanting to get him to come back home, him wanting to see us. It’s different now -- makes you appreciate it more,” said Lasheikca Willie, who was standing with her three young sons.

President Donald Trump was at the Southern Command Headquarter in Florida yesterday with Defense Secretary Dr. Mark Esper and spoke about the newest campaign against drug traffickers and the successful operation to cut the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S.

“In just 12 weeks, Southcom’s surge operation conducted with key regional partners has resulted in more than 1,000 arrests and the interdiction of 120 metric tons,” Trump said.

The Navy confirmed USS Detroit is involved in this mission.

“We’re determined to keep dangerous drugs out of the country and away from our children,” Trump said. “We’re securing our seas. We’re securing our borders. This is a new operation not been done before. And this operation has been incredibly successful.”

According to the Department of Defense, there are now 75% more surveillance aircraft and 65% more ships than usual for drug interdiction in the Eastern Pacific area and the Caribbean.

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