USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) returned to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story , Aug. 7, following a six-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and U.S. 6th Fleet areas of operations .
Oak Hill departed their homeport Feb. 9 as a part of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and supported operations in U.S. 5th and U.S. 6th Fleets as well as participated in military exercises in the northern Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea and the Baltic Sea.
“Our journey began back in August 2016 when we entered the shipyard followed by completing basic and integrated training phases to deploy 18 months ahead of schedule,” said Cmdr. Philip Knight, Oak Hill’s commanding officer. “The Sailors and Marines of Oak Hill are excited to finally be home. We made the most of every opportunity to operate throughout 5th and 6th Fleets, working alongside multiple allies across many operating areas to collectively increase our amphibious combat capability over the last six months.”
During Oak Hill’s six-month deployment, the ship traveled 54,199 nautical miles through four oceans, navigated six straits and chokepoints, and conducted 14,313 hours of amphibious operations.
The ship also visited seven ports where its 800 Sailors and embarked Marines strengthened relationships with countries in Europe and the Middle East. Efforts included holding a reception in Batumi, Georgia, giving public tours as part of Kiel Week in Germany and giving back to their host countries through a variety of community relations projects.
At sea, Oak Hill conducted joint operations with more than 30 nations, participated in multiple ship-to-shore operations, executed 108 aircraft launches and recoveries, and took part in five military exercises.
During exercise Baltic Operations 2018, NATO’s premier, maritime-focused exercise in the Baltic region, Oak Hill hosted Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander, U.S. 6th Fleet, and commander, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO.
“Every time I look back and reflect on everything this ship and its Sailors have been able to accomplish, I am proud to have been a part of this crew,” said Senior Chief Information System Technician Tony Ronsonet.
The deployment also allowed the crew to focus on professional development, as 38 Sailors promoted to the next paygrade and 110 qualified as enlisted surface warfare specialists.
“I am humbled by the level of dedication that our Sailors and Marines have exhibited during our 5th and 6th Fleet deployment,” said Oak Hill’s Command Master Chief Paul Loomis, a sentiment echoed by the ship’s commanding officer.
“The Sailors and Marines of Oak Hill have repeatedly answered our nation’s call over the course of the last two years,” said Knight. “Today is a great day for the Sailors, Marines and families of Oak Hill.”
The Iwo Jima ARG embarks the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and includes the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21), Oak Hill, Fleet Surgical Teams 4 and 8, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28, Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 22, components of Naval Beach Group 2 and the embarked staff of Commander, Amphibious Squadron 4.