Reunion delayed

The USS Abraham Lincoln with its squadron of EA-6B Prowlers from NAS Whidbey won’t be coming home soon after all.

The huge Everett-based aircraft carrier left port in July for a six-month deployment to the western Pacific Ocean and Persian Gulf, and was in Perth, Australia, from Dec. 22 to 28.

The ship was expected home in Everett later this month, but that plan ended Tuesday when word was issued by the Pentagon that its deployment was being extended.

“The USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Battle Group has been ordered to remain on deployment, and will not return to its homeport in January as previously scheduled,” stated a brief Navy news release. “Due to heightened concern in the Pacific and the Arabian Gulf, the Lincoln Battle Group, which is at a high state of readiness, will remain deployed and will be available as required to meet national security requirements.”

The news was naturally disappointing the the crew, which was anticipating coming home and enjoying belated holiday celebrations with family.

“A lot were depressed because we missed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s and figured we’d be home in three weeks,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Bender, the Lincoln’s public affairs officer, when he was contacted on board the ship on Thursday.

“Overall, there was a bit of sadness,” Bender said. “But now we’re moving on -- we’ve got a job to do.”

Bender said the Lincoln actually left for home on Jan. 1, “when the CO (commanding officer) was told to turn the ship around.”

As always, life on board the Lincoln is busy, Bender said. In recent days the pilots and crews, including the VAQ 139 “Cougars” from NAS Whidbey, have been engaged in day and night carrier qualifications. The Lincoln carries a crew of more than 5,000 and a variety of aircraft, including the Navy’s newest strike jet fighter, the FA/18E Super Hornet.

There was no official word on where the Lincoln is headed. It spent most of its initial deployment in the Persian Gulf participating in operations Enduring Freedom and Southern Watch.

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