USS Halyburton Home after Months in Middle East | SLIDESHOW | Community Spirit

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USS Halyburton Home after Months in Middle East | SLIDESHOW
USS Halyburton Home after Months in Middle East | SLIDESHOW

NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. -- During their seven months at sea, the sailors aboard the Mayport-based USS Halyburton not only battle-tested a new unmanned drone, but also helped rescue hostages taken by pirates.

The sailors from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 42, Det. 2 operated under Combined Task Force 508, spending their time around the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

"The work was hard, the hours were long and the mission was challenging and worthwhile," said CDR John Schmidt, former Halyburton commanding officer.  Schmidt handed over command of the ship Tuesday.

The hostage situation was in the Gulf of Aden, where the Halyburton was part of the rescue team that freed the 13 people aboard SL Irene, which had been taken over by pirates.

The ship also patrolled the international waters off Libya to ensure illegal weapons didn't get to pro-Gaddafi forces.

PICTURES: USS Halyburton Homecoming

While working with Operation Unified Protector, the crew utilized the MQ-8B Fire Scout, a drone vehicle whose pilots remain on the ship.

The drones provided air support for the ship as she transited through the Straits of Hormuz, just off the coast of Iran, and Bab-el-Mandeb, near Somalia and Yemen.

"The success of this deployment has given leverage to the Fire Scout program as a viable platform to conduct ISR operations in a maritime environment," said Schmidt.

During the hundreds of hours of deployment of the Fire Scouts, the drones set new records for altitude, range and endurance.

"I think that everyone appreciated the fact that we were doing a little something different than the Navy has done before," said drone pilot LCDR Curtis Webster.  It's a chance to go try something new out and that's a positive thing."

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