Fire Controlman 2nd Class Avatar and Maria Boardman share the ceremonial 'first kiss' at the Friday homecoming of the destroyer Stout in Norfolk, Va. (Lance M. Bacon / Staff)
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NORFOLK, VA. — The destroyer Stout received a hero’s welcome when it returned the morning of April 4 from an eight-month deployment that included responding to the crisis in Syria and liberating a tanker from the hands of armed pirates.
The crew had been through a rigorous ballistic-missile defense mission in 6th Fleet last month and was using a Sunday to paint the ship when the call came in to board the hijacked tanker Morning Glory. A team of SEALs from Special Operations Command Europe and operating from the destroyer Roosevelt on March 17 boarded the freighter and seized it; the tanker was carrying oil that a Libyan militia planned to sell on the black market.
After the SEALs took control, the Stout’s boarding team and prize crew swept the vessel and secured the crew and three pirate prisoners, said Cmdr. Robert Alpigini, the Stout’s commanding officer. His executive officer, Cmdr. Andrew Fitzpatrick, served as Morning Glory’s captain for four days as he and 33 Stout sailors returned the ship to Libyan waters for repatriation.
“It was a very exciting time for the entire crew and I am certainly very proud of everything we accomplished over the course of the deployment,” Alpigini said.
But that mission is just one of many highlights for the ship’s skipper.
“There’s too many individual accomplishments made over this entire deployment to identify any one thing that stands out,” he said upon the ship’s return, as his young sons clung to his side. “The flexibility of the crew, no matter what the mission, there was nothing the crew was not able to do. They were ready from the time we got there to the time we put our lines across just now. I’m extremely proud of what this crew did.”
Stout also teamed with more than 10 nations for exercises in 6th Fleet. Amid the high operational tempo, 38 sailors were advanced and more than 120 earned their enlisted surface warfare pin.