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Las Vegas native returns from 11-month deployment aboard aircraft carrier Nimitz

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Posted at 12:31 PM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 16:41:00-05

A 2002 Desert Pines High School graduate and Las Vegas native recently returned to Bremerton, marking the end of an 11-month deployment aboard aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) to the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operation.

Petty Officer 1st Class Barbara Saephanh is a logistics specialist aboard the carrier.

As a logistics specialist, Saephanh is responsible for investigating and reporting mishaps, incidents, and haz reps that occur with sailors and Marines attached to Nimitz.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the crew of Nimitz embarked aboard the aircraft carrier for a nearly month-long sequester in its homeport of Bremerton, Wash., April 1, 2020. Nimitz then departed to the waters off the coast of Southern California to be joined by the rest of Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (NIMCSG) for integrated training prior to deploying June 8, 2020.

Throughout deployment, NIMCSG steamed 87,300 nautical miles and embarked Carrier Air Wing 17 completed more than 10,599 sorties and 24,317 flight hours.

Nimitz was the first aircraft carrier to successfully deploy in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic with no reported cases aboard. Mitigations were implemented strike group-wide to prevent the spread of COVID-19 aboard the ships, and included wearing face masks, social distancing, increased shipwide cleaning and a focus on handwashing. A COVID-19 Medical Response Team was embarked for the duration of deployment.

Visits to Oman, Bahrain and Guam were confined to the piers to ensure the health and safety of the crew. New personnel that joined the ship underway also completed a sequester and tested negative for COVID-19 prior to embarking.

NIMCSG completed multiple dual carrier operations in U.S. 7th Fleet with Ronald Reagan and Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Groups, and conducted cooperative deployments with the Indian and Australian navies.

The ships also participated in multinational Exercise Malabar 2020 with Japan, Australia and India.

In U.S. 5th Fleet, NIMCSG supported Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, part of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission. In September 2020, Nimitz conducted the first carrier transit through the Strait of Hormuz since November 2019. NIMCSG supported Operation Inherent Resolve, providing close air support and defensive counter-air missions to the coalition fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. NIMCSG transited to the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia to support Joint Task Force – Quartz and Operation Octave Quartz during a repositioning of U.S. forces within East Africa.

While operating in 5th Fleet, NIMCSG also supported the 33-nation Combined Maritime Forces and the 8-nation International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) to ensure the free flow of commerce and maritime security in three critical waterways.

Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Saephanh, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. Saephanh is honored to carry on the family tradition.

"My uncle is a retired Navy Senior Chief Culinary Specialist and my first cousin is a retired Navy FTS Logistics Specialist First Class," said Saephanh. I have another first cousin who is currently a Navy Senior Chief Fire Controlman."

Saephanh experienced an unprecedented deployment, one with unique challenges and successes, and both Navy and government leaders acknowledged the crew’s continued perseverance in the face of adversity.

“I joined the Navy for the educational opportunities while being able to provide for my family," added Saephanh.

Nimitz is the flagship of NIMCSG, and returned to its homeport in Bremerton, Wash., following a deployment in support of maritime stability and security.