- Associated Press - Friday, April 18, 2014

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - Thousands of sailors were greeted Friday by cheerful friends and family who packed a pier at Naval Station Norfolk to welcome them home from a nine-month deployment.

The ships of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group had been deployed to the waters near Europe and the Middle East.

While deployed, the Truman’s aircraft flew about 2,900 combat sorties as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The strike group’s aircraft returned home earlier in the week, but the bulk of sailors came home on Friday. The Navy broadcast the homecoming online, showing friends and family waving flags and carrying cardboard signs to welcome their sailors, who manned the rails in their service dress white uniforms. Music blared over loudspeakers as the ship pulled into view, and people sitting in bleachers stood and cheered.

Other ships in the strike group that arrived Friday in Norfolk include the USS Bulkeley, USS Mason and USS San Jacinto. The USS Gettysburg is also part of the strike group, and its homeport is Mayport, Fla.

While deployed, the Navy said the Mason conducted a counter-piracy exercise with elements of the Chinese Navy in the Gulf of Aden last fall. The USS Harry S. Truman also conducted operations with the French Navy on the deployment in the Gulf of Oman.

The Navy says the strike group includes about 6,000 sailors and Marines. Port visits during the deployment included stops in the Netherlands, Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

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