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Thousands of sailors and Marines returning to San Diego

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Thousands of Navy sailors and Marines will return to San Diego Monday after a seven-month deployment to the western Pacific and Indian oceans, and duty off the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.

Sailors and Marines attached to the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit are headed home, according to Navy officials.

Sailors on board amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island, amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset and amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock were scheduled to return to Naval Station San Diego.

Marines from the 11th MEU, Amphibious Squadron Five, the "Blackjacks" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21, and detachments from Assault Craft Unit 5, Fleet Surgical Team 5, Tactical Air Control Squadron 11, and Beachmaster Unit 1 also will be arriving stateside.

"The Makin Island ARG/11th MEU team provided our commanders with the world's most capable sea-based rapid-response force. Our ships and the landing force they carried gave our commanders the operational flexibility they needed to respond to a range of crises, anywhere in theater, in a moment's notice," Capt. Mike Crary said. "After seven months of operations, I'm still impressed by this team's capabilities.

"They have performed superbly together, a testament to their professionalism and dedication, and I couldn't have asked to serve with a more motivated group of sailors and Marines," he said in a statement.

It was the third deployment for Makin Island, the seventh for Comstock, and the first for Somerset. More than 1,100 sailors and 1,500 Marines deployed aboard Makin Island; 375 sailors and 700 Marines aboard Somerset; and 410 sailors and 400 Marines aboard Comstock.

"This crew should feel extremely proud of what they accomplished over the last seven months. Right from the start, they conducted relevant, real-world operations in direct support of our country's national security goals," said Capt. Mark Melson, Makin Island commanding officer. "Throughout deployment, our sailors and Marines worked night and day to stay at the top of their game, ready to answer the call.

"They're the reason we were always in the right place at the right time, ready to put Marines ashore to perform a wide range of missions," he said in a statement.

"This team can hang their hats on a job well done, and now it's time to focus on being back home and reuniting with our families and loved ones."

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