NORFOLK, Va. (AP/WAVY) - The guided-missile destroyer USS Cole left its homeport of Naval Station Norfolk on Monday on its way to Europe.
While deployed, the Navy says the Cole will participate in ballistic missile defense operations. It has been preparing for the operation since it returned from its last deployment in September 2010.
The ship is commanded by Cmdr. Peter K. Nilsen.
"The crew has done an amazing job with all of the new training and certifications," said Nilsen. "They are ready and eager to perform our new mission and be the tip of the spear."
Most of the young sailors deploying aboard the USS Cole were still in grade school when the ship was attacked in the Yemeni port of Aden in October of 2000. Like most Americans, however, they are very familiar with the story of their ship.
"They know that we're part of something very special here," Nilsen said. "...and although it's an unfortunate thing that happened, ah, this is not a museum. It is a fighting warship."
Recently outfitted with a state-of-the-art BMD weapons system, the ship will play an integral role in the NATO Alliance's missile defense initiative.
Nilsen added, "...and now we're more capable than ever with the new ballistic missile defense capabilities that we have on board."
Also on board are fathers, mother, sons and daughters. Some are like Melissa Lamb's step daughter, who is making her first deployment.
"I was a little emotional when she got on. We had a son that just left for the military a month ago. So, two in a month is very, very hard," Lamb said.
For Lamb, watching the ship leave was difficult, but initially learning her daughter would be aboard the legendary Cole was even worse.
"My heart jumped in my stomach," Lamb recalled.
Lamb's husband, Tim Lamb, told WAVY.com he wasn't worried about the Navy letting the Cole get hit again, adding, "They don't want the same ship in the paper twice."
But, the ship's story is once again in print. The ship's former skipper, Commander Kirk Lippold, just released a book, Front Burner: al Qaeda's Attack on the USS Cole, on the attack. In his book, Lippold said the Navy was content to allow the story of the Cole to "...drift into obscurity."
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