USS VELLA GULF
CG 72
  
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The Vella Gulf (CG 72) is the 26th Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser and the second ship in the United States Navy named for the Battle of Vella Gulf, a naval engagement in the Solomons campaign of World War II. This engagement was historically significant because it was the first time that destroyers were allowed to operate independent of the cruiser force during the Pacific campaign. The battle was fought between the islands of Vella Lavella and Kolombangara on the night of August 6, 1943.

The keel was laid down on April 22, 1991, at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss. She was christened and launched on June 13, 1992, by her sponsor, Mrs. Mary Ann McCauley; and commissioned on September 18, 1993, in a ceremony at Norfolk, Virginia. Capt. Constantine L. Xefteris is the first commanding officer.

USS Vella Gulf successfully completed Sea Trials during the month of February 1998. In the months of May and June, it completed a two month BALTOPS Cruise, taking part in the 26th annual maritime exercise U.S. Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) '98 in the western Baltic Sea from June 8-19, 1998. During the exercise, the commander, Carrier Group Eight, commanded the exercise from the Vella Gulf. In November, the ship completed an ammo onload, a C2X and had made a port call at St. John, U. S. Virgin Islands.

In January 1999, after winning her fifth consecutive "Battle E", CG 72 performed Tomahawk Launch Area Coordinator duties during Tomahawk training exercises and had the AEGIS training and readiness center onboard for a week of Force Air Defense Commander training.

The Vella Gulf's successful completion, in February 1999, of JTFEX '99 marked the end of a ten-month work-up. The vessel headed out for deployment to the Adriatic Sea on March 26, as part of the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Battle Group. After a six-day transit, she took her position in the Adriatic Sea and participated in everything from Tomahawk Strike Ops to fast-track Logistics Ops in support of Operation Noble Anvil. In May and June, the guided-missile cruiser continued to participate in support of combat operations, shot Tomahawks, assumed warfare commander duties (ADC, ASUWC, ASWC and Launch Area Coordinator), and conducted numerous at-sea refueling and stores replenishment events until the relaxation of weapons posture and cessation of hostilities.

USS Vella Gulf began the month of August engaged in multi-ship exercises. She participated in DIVTACS, LeapFrogs, Tomahawk exercises, submarine exercises, Flight Ops, and Gunnery exercises. It returned home on Sept. 22, and went in November to NWS Yorktown, Va., for a complete weapons offload.

As part of USS George Washington (CVN 73) Carrier Battle Group (CVBG), and in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the Vella Gulf set sail in support of defense and humanitarian efforts off the coast of New York.

September 19, 2001 USS Vella Gulf departed Norfolk for a scheduled deployment, as part of the USS Theodore Roosevelt BG, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Transited the Suez Canal on Oct. 13.

March 1, 2002 The Vella Gulf boarded and seized the motor vessel Lina, of undetermined registry, in mid-February, as a suspected Iraqi oil smuggler operating in the Gulf of Oman. M/V Lina, a medium-size coastal tanker, had a history of oil smuggling operations in the Arabian Gulf. Previous boarding attempts by coalition warships had been unsuccessful due to Lina's highly-modified and reinforced locking measures fitted around the ship. During the boarding operation, 21 crewmembers were detained, ship stability evaluated and preparation for towing operations completed.

April ?, 2002 USS Vella Gulf returned to Naval Station Norfolk after a six-month deployment in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet Areas of Responsibility (AoR).

November 20, The Vella Gulf recently pulled into Miami, Fla., after completing a two-week underway operation as an opposing force (OPFOR) unit in support of the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Battle Group's Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX). The ship’s port visit coincided with numerous Veterans' Day weekend events planned throughout the Miami and Dade County area.

June 5, 2003 USS Vella Gulf pulled into Gdynia, Poland, to kick off the 31st annual maritime exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2003. Components of the exercise are taking place afloat in the Baltic Sea and ashore in Poland, Germany and Denmark, from June 7-23.

January 20, 2004 USS Vella Gulf, commanded by Capt. Michael Davis, departed Narfolk for a scheduled deployment, with the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group (CSG), in support of the Global War on Terrorism. The CSG wrapped up a month-long Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) in mid-December.

February 10, The guided-missile cruiser departed Souda Bay, Crete, aftrer a four-day port call.

July 26, USS Vella Gulf returned to homeport after six-month deployment to the Mediterraneran and Arabian Gulf.

May 17, 2006 CG 72 departed Naval Station Norfolk to participate in the 34th annual maritime exercise Baltic Operations.

October 21, The Vella Gulf is currently underway for COMPTUEX as part of the USS Bataan (LHD 5) Expeditionary Strike Group.

January 5, 2007 USS Vella Gulf departed Norfolk for a scheduled deployment, with the USS Bataan ESG-2, in support of the ongoing rotation of forward-deployed forces.

April 14, The guided-missile cruiser is currently underway in the North Arabian Sea conducting Maritime Security Operations (MSO).

July 3, USS Vella Gulf returned to Naval Station Norfolk after a six-month deployment.

April 28, 2008 The Vella Gulf pulled into Port Everglades, Fla., for a Fleet Week.

July 8, CG 72 departed Norfolk to participate in a Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), as part of the USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG).

August 30, USS Vella Gulf, commanded by Capt. Mark D. Genung, departed Naval Station Norfolk for a scheduled deployment in support of Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the Central Command AoO.

September 30, Several U.S. ships, including Vella Gulf, are now operating in the vicinity of Motor Vessel Faina, the Belize-flagged cargo ship, which was captured on Sept. 25 and is anchored off the coast of Somalia near the harbor city of Hobyo. The U.S. 5th Fleet continues to actively monitor the situation. The guided-missile cruiser arrived in Indian Ocean on Sept. 26 to watch on pirated ships MV Faina, MV Capt Stefanos and MV Centauri.

December 9, CG 72 recently anchored off the coast Victoria, Seychelles, for a liberty port visit.

January 20, 2009 The Vella Gulf recently pulled into Manama, Bahrain, for a routine port call.

February 4, USS Vella Gulf became the flagship of Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, assuming duties from USS San Antonio (LPD 17), a multinational task force conducting counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.

February 11, The Vella Gulf captured seven Somali pirates after receving a distress call about 3 p.m., from the motor vessel Polaris, in the Gulf of Aden. This is Navy’s first successful interdiction since the establishment of a new anti-piracy force last month. Under a new agreement with the U.S. military, the suspects will be turned over to the Kenyan government for prosecution.

February 12, Nine suspected pirates were apprehended by USS Vella Gulf after responding to a distress call at 4 a.m., from a nearby Indian-flagged motor vessel Premdivya. USS Mahan (DDG 72) intercepted the skiff. Teams from both warships conducted searches and found weapons, including one rocket-propelled grenade launcher. The suspected pirates were brought on board the guided-missile cruiser where they were processed and are being held until they are transferred to a temporary holding facility on board USNS Lewis and Clark (T-AKE 1).

March 1, CG 72 pulled into Haifa, Israel, for a scheduled port visit. Inport Naval Station Rota, Spain, from March 11-1?.

March 27, USS Vella Gulf returned to homeport after a seven-month deployment.

May 20, The Vella Gulf pulled into New York City, N.Y., to participate in the 22nd commemoration of Fleet Week.

April 9, 2010 USS Vella Gulf moored at HMNB Clyde at Faslane, Scotland, to participate in the multi-national exercise Joint Warrior 10-1, from April 12-23.

July 8, USS Vella Gulf, commanded by Capt. Mark Young, departed Norfolk Naval Station for a scheduled deployment in the U.S. 6th Fleet Area of Responsibility.

August 25, The guided-missile cruiser recently arrived in Haifa, Israel, for a routine port call.

September 22, USS Vella Gulf arrived in Bodrum, Turkey, for a scheduled port visit.

October 13, CG 72 pulled into Souda Bay, Crete, Greece, for a routine port visit.

November 24, The Vella Gulf arrived in Kusadasi, Turkey, for a four-day port call.

January 15, 2011 USS Vella Gulf returned to Norfolk after a six-month deployment in support of the ballistic missile defense strategy in the Mediterranean.

January 3, 2012 USS Vella Gulf departed homeport for a scheduled deployment in the U.S. 6th Fleet AoR, with the primary focus on Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD).

January 22, The guided-missile cruiser arrived in Constanta, Romania, for a three-day port visit.

January 26, USS Vella Gulf pulled into Sevastopol, Ukraine, for a four-day port call. Inport Odessa, Ukraine, from Jan. 31- Feb. 1.

February 5, CG 72 arrived in Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, Greece, for a routine port call.

February 14, USS Vella Gulf, along with USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) and USS De Wert (FFG 45), departed Augusta Bay, Italy, to participate in a NATO's largest Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) exercise Proud Manta 2012, in the Ionian Sea to the southeast of Sicily, from Feb. 14-26.

February 26, The Vella Gulf pulled again into Augusta Bay, Sicily, for a routine port call.

March 23, USS Vella Gulf arrived in Souda Bay, Crete, for a three-day port visit before participating in a joint exercise Noble Dina, with the navies of Israel and Greece, in the eastern Mediterranean.

April 6, The guided-missile cruiser departed Haifa, Israel, after a brief port call. Inport Haifa again on May 1 or earlier.

July 5, The Vella Gulf departed Souda Bay, Greece, after a routine port call.

August 11, USS Vella Gulf returned to Naval Station Norfolk after more than a seven-month deployment.

August 29, Capt. Philip W. Vance relieved Capt. Mark W. Harris as the 12th CO of Vella Gulf.

September 11, BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair has been awarded a $27 million modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-11-C-4403) for the Vella Gulf's Drydocking Selected Restricted Availability (DSRA). Work is expected to be completed by January 2013; Departed dry-dock on Dec. 11.

November 7, 2013 CG 72 is currently underway for routine training in the Virginia Capes Op. Area; Completed INSURV assessment on Aug. 29.

January 24, 2014 Capt. Robert D. Katz relieved Capt. Philip W. Vance as commanding officer of the USS Vella Gulf.

February 14, The Vella Gulf departed Norfolk for a two-week Independent Deployer Certification Exercise (IDCERTEX) in the Treasure Island Op. Area.

March 14, USS Vella Gulf departed Naval Station Norfolk for a scheduled independent deployment with a primary focus on Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) operations.

March 28, The guided-missile cruiser moored at HMNB Clyde in Faslane, Scotland, for a two-day port call before participating in at-sea phase of a multinational exercise Joint Warrior 14-1, from March 30- April 10.

April 16, USS Vella Gulf moored at Fuel Pier in Augusta Bay, Sicily, for a two-day port call for inchop brief and turnover with the USS Ramage (DDG 61).

April 23, The Vella Gulf recently pulled into Limassol, Cyprus, for a scheduled port visit; Inport Haifa, Israel, from April 27- May 1.

May 6, CG 72 arrived in Naval Support Activity Souda Bay at Crete, Greece, for a brief port call; Transited the Bosporus Strait northbound on May 23.

May 30, USS Vella Gulf moored at Berth 7, Container Terminal in Port of Varna East for a three-day port visit to Bulgaria.

June 3, The Vella Gulf moored at Passenger Terminal in Constanta, Romania, for a three-day port call. Participated in a bilateral underway engagement with the ROS Regina Maria (F222) on June 6; Participated in underway engagment with the TCG Bykada (F 512) on June 10; Departed Black Sea on June 12; Upkeep in Souda Bay from June 13-24; Participated in BMD exercise with the SPS Cristobal Colon (F 105) from June 26-27.

July 3, USS Vella Gulf moored at Cruise Terminal in Kusadasi, Turkey, for a three-day port visit; Entered the Black Sea on July 7.

July 8, The guided-missile cruiser pulled into Burgas, Bulgaria, for a brief port call before participating in exercise Breeze from July 9-11; Transited the Bosporus Strait southbound on July 14; Inport Souda Bay from July 15-16 and Aug. 4-5.

August 6, USS Vella Gulf transited the Dardanelles Strait northbound en route to the Black Sea.

August 11, The Vella Gulf moored at Passenger Terminal in Constanta, Romania, for a three-day port visit; Anchored off Constanta to participate in the annual Romanian Navy Day celebration on Aug. 15.

August 18, CG 72 moored at Berth 10, Passenger Terminal in Port of Batumi, Georgia, for a two-day visit. Inport Constanta again from Aug. 22-23; Transited Bosporus Strait southbound on Aug. 26.

August 29, USS Vella Gulf anchored off the coast of Corfu, Greece, for a four-day port visit.

September 5, The Vella Gulf departed Augusta Bay, Italy, after a brief port call for turnover with the USS Cole (DDG 67).

September 20, USS Vella Gulf returned to homeport after a six-month deployment in the U.S. 6th Fleet Area of Responsibility (AoR).

December 30, The Vella Gulf is currently moored at Pier 1, BAE Systems shipyard for an Extended Drydocking Selected Restricted Availability (E-DSRA).

January ?, 2015 The Vella Gulf entered the Speede Dry Dock at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard (ex-Metro Machine) in Norfolk, Va.

April 17, Capt. Francis X. Castellano relieved Capt. Robert D. Katz as the 14th CO of CG 72.

June 2?, The guided-missile cruiser undocked and moved "dead-stick" to BAE Systems shipyard.

November 10, Capt. Mark J. Oberley relieved Cmdr Jason K. Wilson as CO of the Vella Gulf during a change-of-command ceremony at the BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair. Wilson will continue to serve as the executive officer, having filled in as acting commanding officer after Capt. Francis Castellano assumed command of the USS Anzio (CG 68) in September.

March 25, 2016 USS Vella Gulf moved "dead-stick" from BAE Systems shipyard to Berth 1, Pier 4 on Naval Station Norfolk; Underway for sea trials in late July.

September 16, The Vella Gulf recently commenced a Continuous Maintenance Availability (CMAV) while moored at Berth 2, Pier 2 on Naval Station Norfolk.