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Families wait on the pier at Naval Base San Diego on Monday, June 1, 2015, to welcome home the crew of the Navy destroyer USS Sampson. The ship left on Halloween for a deployment to the Western Pacific.

Families wait on the pier at Naval Base San Diego on Monday, June 1, 2015, to welcome home the crew of the Navy destroyer USS Sampson. The ship left on Halloween for a deployment to the Western Pacific. (Jennifer Hlad/Stars and Stripes)

Families wait on the pier at Naval Base San Diego on Monday, June 1, 2015, to welcome home the crew of the Navy destroyer USS Sampson. The ship left on Halloween for a deployment to the Western Pacific.

Families wait on the pier at Naval Base San Diego on Monday, June 1, 2015, to welcome home the crew of the Navy destroyer USS Sampson. The ship left on Halloween for a deployment to the Western Pacific. (Jennifer Hlad/Stars and Stripes)

A Navy jazz band entertains families at Naval Base San Diego on Monday, June 1, 2015, as they wait for the USS Sampson to pull up to the pier. The guided-missile destroyer was deployed for 7 months to the Asia-Pacific region.

A Navy jazz band entertains families at Naval Base San Diego on Monday, June 1, 2015, as they wait for the USS Sampson to pull up to the pier. The guided-missile destroyer was deployed for 7 months to the Asia-Pacific region. (Jennifer Hlad/Stars and Stripes)

The USS Sampson nears the pier Monday morning, June 1, 2015, at Naval Base San Diego. The guided-missile destroyer was deployed to the Western Pacific for 7 months and assisted in the search-and-recovery efforts for AirAsia flight 8501.

The USS Sampson nears the pier Monday morning, June 1, 2015, at Naval Base San Diego. The guided-missile destroyer was deployed to the Western Pacific for 7 months and assisted in the search-and-recovery efforts for AirAsia flight 8501. (Jennifer Hlad/Stars and Stripes)

A family watches with glee as the USS Sampson comes into view at Naval Base San Diego on Monday morning, June 1, 2015. The ship was deployed for 7 months to the Asia-Pacific region.

A family watches with glee as the USS Sampson comes into view at Naval Base San Diego on Monday morning, June 1, 2015. The ship was deployed for 7 months to the Asia-Pacific region. (Jennifer Hlad/Stars and Stripes)

Chief Petty Officer James Payne was the 1st USS Sampson sailor to get a kiss from his family — specifically, his youngest daughter, 3-year-old Julianna — when the ship returned from a 7-month deployment Monday morning, June 1, 2015. His wife, Chandie, and their other 2 daughters, 14-year-old Vanessa and 10-year-old Alexis, said they were very excited to welcome him home.

Chief Petty Officer James Payne was the 1st USS Sampson sailor to get a kiss from his family — specifically, his youngest daughter, 3-year-old Julianna — when the ship returned from a 7-month deployment Monday morning, June 1, 2015. His wife, Chandie, and their other 2 daughters, 14-year-old Vanessa and 10-year-old Alexis, said they were very excited to welcome him home. (Jennifer Hlad/Stars and Stripes)

A sailor greets his new daughter for the 1st time Monday morning, June 1, 2015, after returning to Naval Base San Diego from a 7-month deployment aboard the USS Sampson.

A sailor greets his new daughter for the 1st time Monday morning, June 1, 2015, after returning to Naval Base San Diego from a 7-month deployment aboard the USS Sampson. (Jennifer Hlad/Stars and Stripes)

A sailor embraces his wife after her return to Naval Base San Diego on Monday, June 1, 2015, from a 7-month deployment aboard the USS Sampson.

A sailor embraces his wife after her return to Naval Base San Diego on Monday, June 1, 2015, from a 7-month deployment aboard the USS Sampson. (Jennifer Hlad/Stars and Stripes)

Seamus Walter, 2, cuddles with his daddy, Lt. Kevin Walter, after Kevin's return from a 7-month deployment aboard the USS Sampson. The ship visited several ports in the Western Pacific and helped in the search-and-recovery efforts for AirAsia flight 8501.

Seamus Walter, 2, cuddles with his daddy, Lt. Kevin Walter, after Kevin's return from a 7-month deployment aboard the USS Sampson. The ship visited several ports in the Western Pacific and helped in the search-and-recovery efforts for AirAsia flight 8501. (Jennifer Hlad/Stars and Stripes)

NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO — The USS Sampson returned home Monday after a 212-day deployment to the Asia-Pacific region, a mission that included search-and-recovery efforts for the AirAsia plane that vanished in December with 162 people on board.

Alexis Payne, 10, was practically oozing elation as she stood on the pier with her mother and two sisters, holding a handmade sign to welcome her father home.

“I’m feeling really, really, really excited,” she said.

Her father, Chief Petty Officer James Payne, had deployed before, but this was the longest time away that Alexis could remember.

Payne, the sailor who got the honor of “first kiss,” said that while the crew was able to keep in touch with family and friends, nothing compares with being home.

“Facetime doesn’t really do it justice,” he said. “Live and in-person is always best.”

The guided-missile destroyer left San Diego on Halloween and made stops in Japan, Singapore, Guam, Indonesia and South Korea. The crew of more than 300 was in Singapore when the call came to assist with the search for AirAsia flight 8501.

“We sped up, headed down to the Java Sea,” and helped find the missing plane, said Cmdr. Steve Foley, commander of the Sampson.

The ship also worked with several partner nations and participated in a live-fire training exercise with Japan.

Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Laufman, who served as the ship’s “air boss,” said the deployment was a busy one. Flight crews flew 135 hours in support of the search-and-recovery mission, he said, and recovered some aircraft wreckage.

But the best thing for him, he said, was the quality of the maintenance and the integration between the air assets and the ship’s crew.

“It made us better and it made it more enjoyable,” Laufman said.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Samantha Shier said the deployment, her first, was “long but enjoyable,” because the ship visited several ports and the sailors were able to experience other cultures.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexander Alvarado also enjoyed visiting the ports and showing others what the Navy can do.

“We did a lot of good stuff out there,” he said. “That’s why I joined the Navy — I wanted to help people.”

It’s hard to deploy and be away from home, Foley said, particularly over the holidays, but the crew stepped up.

Now, though, he said, “The USS Sampson is glad to be back.”

hlad.jennifer@stripes.com Twitter: @jhlad

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