Navy ships return to San Diego Friday - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Navy ships return to San Diego Friday

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The amphibious ready group led by the USS Makin Island brought about 1,700 sailors home to San Diego Friday following a seven-month deployment in the Western Pacific and Middle East.

The amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island, amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans and amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor came home after dropping off more than 2,100 Marines of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit at Camp Pendleton on Thursday.

"We were able to sharpen our skills while strengthening partnerships with our hosts," said Col. Michael Hudson, 11th MEU commander. "From survival and jungle training in Cambodia and Malaysia to full-scale raids and live-fire exercises with counterparts throughout the Middle East and Horn of Africa, this deployment employed all the capabilities of our air-ground logistics team."

Hudson said the ships were able to land Marines at three or four places at once at times during the deployment.

The Makin Island completed its maiden deployment, which began Nov. 14 and included several months in the Middle East over the winter. It boasts a hybrid-electric propulsion system that saved more than four million gallons of fuel throughout the deployment for an estimated savings of more than $15 million, according to the Navy.

"Our sailors and Marines successfully met every mission during our historical maiden deployment in support of the nation's maritime security," said Capt. Cedric Pringle, Makin Island's commanding officer. "As the Navy's first operational test platform for this hybrid-electric propulsion system, our fuel efficiency directly enhanced the ability to operate forward for longer."

Pringle was placed in charge of the Makin Island in March, when the vessel's commanding officer, Capt. Jim Landers, was appointed to a Pacific Fleet staff position.

The ship is named after a Pacific Ocean atoll raided by Marines in August 1942 during World War II. It is now known as Butaritari.

During its deployment, the Makin Island also served as a platform for the first operational deployment of the four-blade AH-1Z Viper helicopter. The new helicopter is used in conjunction with the UH-1Y helicopter, replacing the previously paired two-bladed Marine Corps AH-1W and UH-1N helicopters.

According to the Navy, the Viper and the UH-1Y helicopters travel faster and carry up to 4,000 more pounds than their predecessors.

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