- Associated Press - Friday, April 4, 2014

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - The USS Stout returned to Virginia on Friday following a lengthy eight-month deployment that saw it help return a seized oil tanker to Libya as well as being put in a position to respond to a crisis in Syria.

The guided-missile destroyer was originally sent to the Navy’s Sixth Fleet area of responsibility, which includes waters around Europe and Africa, to conduct a routine ballistic missile defense patrol. The ship is equipped with a sophisticated radar system that allows it to track and shoot down ballistic missiles. Destroyers like the Stout are an integral part of NATO’s plan to guard its member countries from a potential ballistic missile attack. This deployment, however, went beyond the typical BMD patrol.

“It was one of the most diverse and exciting deployments that I think most ships have had any time in recent memory,” said Cmdr. Robert Alpigini, the Stout’s commanding officer. “We rushed over for the Syrian crisis, and by the end of it, it changed 180 degrees to a completely different mission where we participated in the intercept and liberation of motor vessel Morning Glory. That was a very exciting time for the entire crew. I’m certainly very proud.”

The Stout left Naval Station Norfolk in mid-August and was quickly sent to the eastern Mediterranean in response to a chemical weapons attack in Syria.

In March, the Stout’s crew took control of a seized oil tanker that had been freed by Navy SEALs and helped return it to Libya.

For family members back at home, seeing the Stout’s name in the news so often wasn’t easy.

“Oh, I had to pray like crazy I was so nervous,” said Allison Channing, whose husband Kyle is a culinary specialist aboard the ship.

The Stout has a crew of nearly 280 sailors. The ship is designed to conduct sustained combat operations in anti-air, anti-submarine, anti-surface, strike warfare and ballistic missile defense environment, according to the Navy.

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Brock Vergakis can be reached at www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis