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USS Sampson leaves San Diego for western Pacific deployment

Shawna Tooman and 21-month-old Brooke look through a gate as the USS Sampson leaves Naval Base San Diego on Friday, Oct. 31, 2014, for a deployment to the western Pacific. Brooke's father, Petty Officer 3rd Class Taylor Tooman, is a member of the ship's crew.

JENNIFER HLAD/STARS AND STRIPES

By JENNIFER HLAD | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 31, 2014

NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO — Petty Officer 3rd Class Jesse Charpentier held hands with his wife, Ashley, and gazed into her teary eyes Friday morning, taking advantage of their last moments together before he left on his first deployment.

“I guess you can never really be ready,” he said.

Charpentier and the rest of the crew of the USS Sampson, a guided-missile destroyer, departed on Halloween for a tour in the western Pacific. Families said they aren’t sure how long the deployment will last but are hoping it will be only six or seven months.

While afloat, the Sampson will participate in maritime security exercises and training, operating with friends and allies, said Cmdr. Steve Foley, the ship’s commanding officer.

The ship’s crew has been getting ready for the deployment since early this year and sailed to Hawaii this summer for the Rim of the Pacific exercise as part of the training cycle.

It’s difficult to leave friends and family behind, Foley said, but the sailors are ready.

“This crew is very dedicated,” he said. “It is game day, and they’re excited and nervous.”

While the cycle of combat deployments for U.S. troops has slowed with the drawdown of forces in Afghanistan, the Navy continues to deploy dozens of ships around the globe — though budget cuts and maintenance delays have forced the service to extend some deployments while rescheduling or canceling others.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Lord said he was “a little nervous” for his first deployment. Lord, the father of a 10-month-old, checked in to the ship about two years ago and said the crew has been busy training almost the entire time, which can be stressful for the families.

The deployment is the third for Lt. Kevin Walter, the ship’s weapons officer — but his first since he became a father. Saying goodbye to his wife and two sons makes leaving harder, he said, but “it’s time to go and do the Navy’s work.”

Petty Officer 1st Class Marc Ashby said he plans to retire after this deployment, his fifth. His fiancée, Madison Miller, said going through a deployment is a new experience for her, and even the training cycle has been an adjustment.

Still, she said, “It makes me proud to know I’m part of something that’s a legacy of America.”

hlad.jennifer@stripes.com
Twitter: @jhlad

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