USS Howard sailors ship out for Western Pacific - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

USS Howard sailors ship out for Western Pacific

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego-based guided-missile destroyer USS Howard deployed to the Western Pacific Monday.

"We're excited to go out there," Cmdr. David Zook, the vessel's commanding officer, told CBS News 8. "I'm a Seventh Fleet sailor, where I'm heading to and I enjoy that area. I know a lot about that area and so does the crew, and we've done a lot of training to make sure we're ready to go."

The Seventh Fleet covers the Western Pacific and Indian oceans.

Tearful family members bade goodbye to the vessel's 320 officers and enlisted sailors, who left just as the holiday season was getting underway. Zook said he celebrated Christmas early with his wife and three daughters.

The USS Howard will be on security patrols and take part in exercises with ships of other countries, according to the Navy. The length of the deployment was not disclosed. The ship was most recently deployed in 2011.

The destroyer is named in honor of Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Jimmie E. Howard, a combat veteran of both Korea and Vietnam who was awarded the Medal of Honor, Silver Star and three Purple Hearts during his 27 years of service.

Following his retirement in 1972, he worked at a San Diego Veterans Affairs office and was an assistant football coach at Point Loma High School. He died in 1993 and is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.

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