Thursday, November 26, 2009

USS Bataan Celebrates Thanksgiving On Way Home From 7-Month Deployment

U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY In this Nov. 6, 2009 file photo, an MV-22B Osprey from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 263 (Reinforced), 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), takes off from the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5). The aircraft were flown to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, where they will be transferred to VMM-261 and used to support the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. This is the first time the aircraft will be used in Afghanistan. The 22nd MEU is serving as the theater reserve force for U.S. Central Command. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Julio Rivera.)

Focus on Defense:

USS BATAAN, At Sea, Nov. 26, 2009 -- Nearly 2,500 sailors aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) and embarked Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday Nov. 26 on their way home from a seven-month deployment.

Although Bataan sailors are underway and don't have the opportunity to share a meal with their families on this special day, the reasons to be thankful are a virtual cornucopia.

"We've been given an opportunity today to give thanks for one another, and the people we've become," said Capt. Sam Howard, Bataan's commanding officer. "We can recognize that we are woven together and can enjoy the strength that we have gained from one another…Happy Thanksgiving, shipmates."

Crew members spent the holiday participating in a 5K "Turkey Trot" on the flight deck, enjoying a Native American heritage celebration on the mess decks and feasting on a traditional ham and turkey dinner, before relaxing by watching football courtesy of Direct to sailor (DTS) and the Armed Forces Network (AFN) and enjoying a day-long marathon of the pop-culture favorite "A Christmas Story" played over the ship's closed-circuit television.

"The celebration that Bataan put on was a great way to bring a little bit of home while we're underway," said Logistics Specialist Seaman Recruit Tyler Stringer. "It was amazing the way the supply department came out and got everything put together for the crew."

Preparations for the Thanksgiving meal began days before and continued through Thursday. All in all, Bataan's culinary specialists prepared more than 1,400 pounds of turkey, 450 pounds of ham, three whole pigs and more than 200 pies.

"When it comes to special meals like Thanksgiving, we put a lot of thought into the process. We focus on what we're going to prepare for the crew and make sure we have enough portions," said Chief Culinary Specialist Karlene Henri. "The holiday time is when people start missing home, so we try to put out the best meal because we want it to feel a little more like home."

Bataan left her homeport of Norfolk, Va., May 13 to conduct Maritime Security Operations in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. She served as the flagship of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), which also includes the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce (LPD 15) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43).

Bataan is the fifth ship of the Navy's Wasp-class ships. She was commissioned Sept. 20, 1997, and is the second U.S. Navy warship to bear the name. USS Bataan (CVL-29) was an Independence-class light aircraft carrier that was commissioned in November 1943. After serving in both World War II and the Korean conflict, CVL-29 was decommissioned in 1954.

(Report by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan Steinhour, USS Bataan Public Affairs.)

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