USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116), part of Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12, returned to Mayport after an 8-month deployment to the U.S. Naval Forces Europe – Africa area of operations, January 4, 2024.

During the deployment, Thomas Hudner served as an air defense unit for the strike group off the coast of Israel, and worked closely with Allies and Partners on a variety of missions. Additionally, Thomas Hudner led a Surface Action Group comprised of Allied and Partner nations in the English Channel, designed to flex advanced Surface Warfare and Subsurface Warfare tactics.

“I’m so grateful to have been a part of Thomas Hudner family for this deployment,” said Sonar Technician Geographic Third Class Michelle Falcon Escobedo, from Northglenn, Colorado. “Even though it was long, the moments I’ve shared with this team made it worthwhile. Together we’ve celebrated holidays, gotten qualified, and traveled half-way around the world. I couldn’t ask for a better ship.”

In 250 days, the crew of Thomas Hudner conducted 30 replenishments-at-sea, logged over 400 helicopter landings, sailed over 60, 000 miles, and safely transferred over 6,000,000 gallons of fuel with zero mishaps. The Thomas Hudner culinary team prepared and served over 250,000 meals, which included over 6,900 dozen eggs, 2,800 gallons of milk, 2,100 pounds of ground beef, 2,200 pounds of bacon, 3,300 pounds of steak, 1,100 pounds of ribeye roll, 7,300 pounds of chicken, 67,500 cookies and, Thomas Hudner’s favorite, 550 gallons of ice cream.

While deployed with Carrier Strike Group 12, the Thomas Hudner crew conducted maritime security operations and engaged with Allied and Partner nations. In May, the crew of the Thomas Hudner operated in the Barents Sea with British and Norwegian forces, enhancing interoperability and readiness in the challenging Arctic environment. In July, Thomas Hudner patrolled the Strait of Hormuz, protecting the free flow of international commerce and providing greater flexibility and maritime capability in the region. Since October, Thomas Hudner has operated throughout the Mediterranean and Red Sea regions, deterring aggression as part of CSG 12’s mission to support Israel in its right to self-defense and to deter malign actors from furthering the Israel-Hamas conflict. While conducting patrols in the Red Sea, Thomas Hudner engaged three one-way attack UAVs operating in the area. In December, Thomas Hudner conducted a port visit to Souda Bay, Greece in conjunction with the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), allowing Thomas Hudner to complete an intensive 6-day maintenance period to ensure the ability to continue operating in support of mission requirements.

“Throughout our deployment, Thomas Hudner had the distinct privilege of operating with our Allies and Partners in highly sensitive waterways ranging from the Barents Sea, to the Bab Al Mandeb Strait, Strait of Hormuz and Eastern Mediterranean Sea,” said Cmdr. Shelby Nikitin, commanding officer, USS Thomas Hudner. “These remarkable partnerships between the U.S. and our Allies and Partners not only maintained a deterrent posture throughout the region, but showcased our collective combat power and flexibility across the maritime domain.”

CSG-12, Gerald R. Ford CSG, is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa area of operations, employed by U.S. Sixth Fleet to defend U.S., allied, and partner interests.

The Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group is comprised of its flagship and namesake, the Ford-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), Carrier Air Wing Eight (CVW-8), Destroyer Squadron Two (DESRON-2), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG-60), and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Ramage (DDG 61), USS McFaul (DDG 74), and USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116).

The squadrons of CVW-8 embarked aboard Gerald R. Ford are the “Tridents” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 9, the “Spartans” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 70, the “Bear Aces” of Airborne Command and Control Squadron (VAW) 124, the “Ragin’ Bulls” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 37, the “Blacklions” of VFA-213, the “Golden Warriors” of VFA-87, the “Tomcatters” of VFA-31, the “Gray Wolves” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 142, and the “Rawhides” of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40.

Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.