VIRGINIA BEACH-There were dozens of people anxiously waiting at Little Creek for Tuesday's homecoming of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga.

The crew tied up at her new home port - Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story - following the four-month deployment and hull swap with USS Ashland in Sasebo, Japan.

Ashland had left Norfolk and arrived in Japan on August 6 and the hull swap ceremony took place August 23.

Hull swap, or ship rotation, is a part of the Navy's long-range strategy to routinely exchange older ships assigned to the Navy's forward deployed naval forces (FDNF)with newer or more efficient ships.

'Tortuga has sailed more than 170,000 nautical miles during her time in the FDNF,' said Ashland's commanding officer, Cmdr. John J. Barnett (formerly Tortuga's commanding officer). 'She has been the epitome of operational readiness and we have had extreme pride in her abilities. With heavy hearts we bid farewell to Tortuga as she makes her way back to the U.S. We would like to thank the Sailors of Ashland for delivering her to Sasebo in such terrific condition.'

Tortuga's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Brett C. Hershman (formerly Ashland's commanding officer), added, 'We are proud to provide such an effective ship to the FDNF [forward deployed naval forces] and we hope the new crew the best in writing the next chapter of her life as a forward-deployed asset.'

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