NORFOLK -- It's homecoming day for hundreds of Navy families.

USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) left Naval Station Norfolk nine months ago for counter-piracy and maritime security duty in the Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, and Arabian Gulf.

During its deployment, the crew responded to an emergency at sea off the coast of Oman. On August 20, 2012, a crewmember of the civilian Motor Vessel Belde died and another had to be evacuated from the ship.

They made history by taking part in the first U.S Central Command joint counter-piracy exercise between the U.S. and the People's Liberation Army (Navy) of China. The crew also participated in exercises with Montenegro, Albania, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Australia, Britain, Spain, and Jordan,

'I couldn't be more proud of this crew; the successes they have achieved over the past nine months are truly remarkable,' said Cmdr. Chris Stone. 'Our interaction with foreign navies, whether in a friendly game of soccer or exercises at sea, allows us to build international cooperation with other seagoing nations,' added Stone. 'It makes for a stronger presence against common maritime challenges, to include piracy, and ensures the sea lanes remain open around the world.'

'Our crew did an outstanding, phenomenal job on deployment,' said Churchill's Command Master Chief Myla Presco. 'The ship is coming back to Norfolk better than it left, and every Sailor can come home with a feeling of accomplishment.'

The Navy said Churchill is the only U.S. Navy ship to have a Royal Navy officer assigned permanently to the ship's company, a symbol of the partnership between the British and American navies. It's It is also the only U.S. Naval vessel to fly a foreign ensign - the Royal Navy's White Ensign is flown as well as the Stars and Stripes. Churchill is the fifth U.S. warship to be named in honor of an Englishman.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is manned by 259 Sailors and 39 officers.

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