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Fair winds, following seas

Under skies threatening rain Wednesday, 7,000 U.S. sailors, marines and airmen embarked on a seven-month deployment to relieve the USS Truman Strike Group in the U.S. Fifth and Sixth Fleet area of responsibilities.

About 5,200 sailors aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower join hundreds of others aboard the guided missile cruisers USS San Jacinto and USS Monterey; the guided missile destroyers USS Stout, USS Roosevelt, USS Mason and USS Nitze; and the Strike Fighter Squadrons 32 and 105, Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 123, Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 40 and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 7 to comprise the Eisenhower’s strike group.

Mixed in among those thousands of service men and women are more than a few who hail from Suffolk. They will support air strikes against ISIS in addition to other duties, said Admiral Philip S. Davidson, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

Lt. Kristina Fontenot is one of the Suffolk residents aboard the Ike. A 2007 Nansemond River High School graduate, 26-year-old Fontenot is the deputy public affairs officer for Carrier Strike Group 10. She works with American and international media covering the group’s activities and edits the products of Navy journalists and photographers.

While her ship was being prepared for tugboats to push it away from the dock at Naval Station Norfolk on Wednesday, she watched as others said their goodbyes to hundreds of family members and friends who had gathered to wish them a safe deployment.

Fontenot’s own farewells, she explained, had been had been said earlier in the week, when her mother and sister had dropped her off at the pier. Having grown up with a father in the Navy, by now, she said, she and her family are used to the departure routine. Still, she added, it’s good to see a familiar face from Suffolk aboard the carrier from time to time.

The carrier strike group shipped out with a number of environmentally friendly upgrades — new, more efficient engine configurations for some ships, new biofuels used on others and thousand of new LED lights that will consume less energy.

We hope those upgrades will contribute to the Ike’s effectiveness in the fight against terror, but more than that, we pray for the safety of all those aboard, wherever they hail from.

Fair winds and following seas.