NORFOLK -- Today was the day that thousands of Navy families had been waiting for -- the return of the ships of USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group.
Friends and families packed the piers at Naval Station Norfolk Friday morning waiting for their loved ones to arrive.
The sailors came home aboard the carrier Truman, the guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56) and the guided-missile destroyers USS Bulkeley and USS Mason.
USS San Jacinto arrived first, being pushed into place by tugs just after 8:00 a.m.; the Mason crew started getting off the ship around 10:20 a.m., Bulkely and Truman weren't far behind that.
The 6,000 sailors and Marines have been gone on a nine-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility.
During the deployment, originally scheduled for February 2013 but delayed just prior to the strike group's scheduled departure, ships assigned to HST CSG conducted a full range of operations ranging from maritime security operations and multinational exercises, to providing air support for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Squadrons assigned to Carrier Air Wing 3 flew 2,902 combat sorties totaling more than 16,450 hours.
"Team Battle Axe was on point, every day, on every mission,"said Capt. George Wikoff, commander, CVW-3. "Everyone remained focused on mission accomplishment, from the aircrew in the cockpits to the maintainers keeping the aircraft flying, determined to keep our coalition troops safe on the ground in Afghanistan."
Capt. Bob Roth, commanding officer, USS Harry S. Truman, praised his crew for their dedication, professionalism, and his command's ability to work as a team.
"Nine months at sea as a forward-deployed combat team is an immense undertaking," he said. "The days were long and the work was challenging, but Team Truman never missed a beat and we met every challenge. The professionalism and dedication of our sailors is unmatched. The teamwork between the ship and air wing was spectacular and a model for how it should be done. I couldn't be more proud to be a part of this combat-proven team."
USS Gettysburg returns to Mayport, Florida.
The air wing flew home to Chambers Field Norfolk and NAS Oceana on Wednesday and Thursday.