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USS Gerald R. Ford bound for Norfolk

USS Gerald R. Ford with its strike group in the Eastern Mediterranean. Dec. 31, 2024. Department of Defense
USS Gerald R. Ford with its strike group in the Eastern Mediterranean. Dec. 31, 2024. Department of Defense

The USS Gerald R. Ford could be back in town in a little more than two weeks. 

The U.S Sixth Fleet made the announcement Monday. It takes roughly 16 to 18 days for a ship to reach the east coast from the eastern Mediterranean.

The Ford was supposed to arrive back in Norfolk in early November, but was sent to the coast of Israel in October to prevent the conflict between the country and Hamas from widening. 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III extended the ship's deployment twice. He visited the carrier before the holidays while on a trip to the Middle East.  

The show of U.S. force off the coast of Israel is designed to discourage Hezbollah militants in Lebanon from entering the conflict. 

The Ford was supposed to be replaced by another Norfolk-based carrier, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. Instead, the Ike was sent to the Middle East to protect international shipping. U.S forces have been engaged with missiles and drones from Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The Ford has already been replaced by an Amphibious Ready Group headed by USS Bataan, USS Mesa Verde, from Norfolk and USS Carter Hall, homeported in Virginia Beach. The ships also carry 2,000 Marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

This is the first deployment for the USS Ford, which was built at Huntington Ingalls Industry in Newport News. 

The Ford is the largest carrier in the fleet, though the crew of 4,000 sailors is designed to operate with fewer sailors than the smaller Nimitz class carriers.

Steve joined WHRO in 2023 to cover military and veterans. Steve has extensive experience covering the military and working in public media, most recently at KPBS in San Diego, WYIN in Gary, Indiana and WBEZ in Chicago. In the early 2000s, he embedded with members of the Indiana National Guard in Kuwait and Iraq. Steve reports for NPR’s American Homefront Project, a national public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Steve is also on the board of Military Reporters & Editors.

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