he “Red Dragons” of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59) arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on February 15.

The port call marks the completion of the first leg of the ships’ regularly scheduled deployment to the Western Pacific. They departed from their homeport in San Diego on Feb. 10.

It’s Russell’s first deployment in almost three years since the nearly 30-year-old destroyer last returned on May 21, 2021, from a surge deployment with the Theodore Roosevelt Strike Group.

The crew’s nickname comes from a red dragon on the ship’s crest, symbolizing strength, vigilance and service in the Orient and Pacific, where the ship has spent most of its operational career.

“Our ‘Red Dragons’ are ready for what’s ahead of them in the coming months,” said Cmdr. Mike McInerney, the ship’s commanding officer, after arriving at Pearl Harbor’s Bravo pier.

“We’ve got a lot ahead of us, but this crew has already brought this proud ship through an 18-month maintenance availability followed by nearly a year of training up for this deployment – they are ready for the challenges ahead.”

The crew stayed busy during the transit with training and real-world operations, replenishing at sea to take on fuel with the oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197) immediately after leaving San Diego.

For the rest of the Pearl Harbor leg of the trip, the crew kept busy completing maintenance and conducting drills to maintain their proficiency.

This doesn’t mean it was all work and no play.

Twenty-four hours into the deployment, those not on watch viewed the Kansas City Chiefs’ victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII.

The wardroom, chief’s mess and mess decks all had screens showing the Armed Forces Network satellite broadcast, bringing the game to the crew over miles of open ocean.

Those on watch were kept apprised of the action by the bridge watch team, which announced all scoring plays over Russell’s 1MC announcing system – fueled by McInerney’s updates.

Groups of U.S. service members stationed worldwide are often shown during the broadcast, though the public rarely sees sailors watching while out at sea.

Some in the crew wore their favorite team’s jersey or sweatshirt – regardless of whether those teams were playing. Others wore their team’s ball cap.

For a few of Russell’s crew, this Super Bowl marked their second and even third watching of the big game while on deployment.

One such sailor was Culinary Specialist 1st Class Matt Taylor. The 11-year Navy veteran is an Atlanta Falcons fan.

While deployed on the Nimitz Class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in 2017, he watched his team battle the New England Patriots and ultimately lose as Tom Brady led his team from behind to win.

He was rooting for the 49ers this time because he’s a fan of many of their players.

Though ultimately disappointed in the game’s outcome, his main goal for the contest was realized.

“If my team isn’t in the fight, I just hope for a good game that’s fun to watch,” he said.

He got his wish, as did Senior Chief Machinist’s Mate Eric Baffoe, who watched his third Super Bowl while deployed.

As a Houston Texans fan, his team has yet to make it to the big game – though he believes they are heading in that direction now as an up-and-coming team.

He, too, remembers that February 2017 Super Bowl while he was stationed on the command ship USS Blue Ridge in Japan.

“Many overseas must get up or stay up late to watch the game,” he said. “You sacrifice your sleep just to watch it, hoping for a good game.”

For Chief Fire Controlman (Aegis) Don Vasquez’s last deployment Super Bowl was also a victory for his hometown team, the Seattle Seahawks, as they trounced the Denver Broncos in the February 2014 game.

Vasquez was stationed on the guided missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf. The ship was at sea training off the US east coast.

“It’s surely something I’ll never forget,” Vasquez said. “When the game ended, I emailed my sister, who still lives in Seattle, to make sure to get me a newspaper the next day,” he said.

“I still have that paper today; it’s framed now and is hanging up in my home.”

For McInerney, a lifelong Patriots fan, making sure his crew could watch and enjoy the game was essential.

He moved around the ship to check in with the crew, watching a portion of the game in each shipboard location. He kept bridge team – and the rest of the crew updated on the scores, calling from his locations around the ship.

He was deployed as the operations officer on the guided-missile destroyer USS Bulkeley during that same Seahawk’s and Broncos tilt.

“These things matter,” he said. “Our Sailors are away from their homes and families – but we’re a family too, and these things help build bonds and relationships that last a lifetime.”

With his crew’s deployment just starting, he says creating memorable moments like this only makes his crew closer for the long months of deployment to come.

“We don’t know what’s ahead for us, but whatever it is, we are ready and are in it for the long haul,” he said. “It’s moments like these that build connectedness and help us overcome adversity.”