SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The guided-missile destroyer USS Milius returned to San Diego Thursday morning following an 8 1/2-month deployment.

The 505-foot Milius left Oct. 20 for a deployment that included a major exercise with ships from Canada and Japan, ballistic missile defense and shadowing tankers through the Strait of Hormuz for a couple of days after a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship was seized by Iran.

The San Diego homecoming is expected to be the last for the vessel, which is scheduled to be transferred to Japan in two years.

"I am extremely proud of this ship and this crew," said Cmdr. Michael Rak, commanding officer of the Milius. "These `destroyermen' performed exceptionally well in theater, and their superior performance during this eight-and-a-half month deployment is a testament to them and the families who support us."

The Milius is named for Navy Capt. Paul L. Milius, who ordered his seven fellow crew members to bail out as he held their badly damaged aircraft steady before it crashed in Laos in 1968. All seven were later rescued, but Milius was declared missing in action.

His body was never recovered. Milius was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously in 1978.