Mayport, Fla. – One hundred sailors reunited with their families Saturday morning at Naval Station Mayport after spending nearly four months at sea onboard the USS Milwaukee.
Children, spouses and even pets greeted their loved ones at the dock Saturday.
Petty Officer First Class Luke Mauck was thrilled to be back with his wife and 1-year-old daughter. His wife, Megan, said it was the longest they had been apart and the longest he’d been away from their daughter.
“She got heavy and she got big. It’s nice to see them,” Luke Mauck said. “You can see them on the phone, you can talk to them, but actually feeling them and touching them and seeing them, it’s like, wow, it’s pretty crazy.”
Petty Officer Angel Hall couldn’t wait to see her 1-year-old daughter, boyfriend and the rest of her family.
“It is unspeakable. It was amazing,” Hall said of her reunion. “It gets hard being there but it is an awesome feeling coming home.”
Most of their deployment was spent in the Caribbean Sea doing counter drug stings.
They seized more than $64 million worth of drugs and worked alongside Navy personnel from France, Jamaica and Ecuador.
And commanding officer Brian Forster said that wasn’t all.
“We got to go through the Panama Canal twice which is really cool and we got to do a traditional crossing the line ceremony, crossing the equator, which a lot of people don’t get to get done,” Forster said.
The USS Milwaukee returned less than a week after Navy officials discussed the proposed budget for the 2023 fiscal year.
During a news conference, Navy officials confirmed plans to decommission the Freedom-Class littoral combat ships. Eight of them are based at Mayport and the USS Milwaukee is one of them.
The Freedom-Class LCS have had issues with combining gear, which is a part of their propulsion system.
There’s no timeline on when they would be decommissioned -- if they ultimately are -- because it would be early, so Congress would have to give a waiver.
Congress would have to approve the budget as well.
Forster said that is beyond his control.
“As a commanding officer of a ship my most important thing is the readiness of the ship, readiness of the sailors,” Forster said. “I will always have the ship ready for any missions and the sailors ready for any missions that the nation calls for.”
For now, all that matters to these sailors and their families is being home.
“I have a baseball game for my son. I am coaching soccer for my daughter, and I think we’re going to the Clay County Fair tomorrow,” Forster said.