Less than a month after a guided-missile cruiser spent 207 consecutive days at sea, another ship passed that record.
The guided-missile destroyer Stout marked its 208th day at sea on Saturday during a deployment that is stretching into its seventh month, the Navy announced Tuesday. The Stout is currently deployed to the Middle East and hasn't been able to make a port call due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Another ship set the record for most consecutive days spent at sea last month. The guided-missile cruiser Vella Gulf recently clocked 207 days at sea. The aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower's crew was at sea for 206 straight days.
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Being at sea for about seven months without a port call is likely a record many Navy crews would rather not set. But after the illness caused by the novel coronavirus spread rapidly through one crew following a port call in Vietnam, leaders have reined in stops that could leave sailors vulnerable during the global pandemic.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday told NBC News in a recent interview that he's concerned the situation could lead to sailor burnout.
The Navy will likely need to adjust operating schedules as ships have to stay at sea longer to complete back-to-back training and deployments without leave to prevent exposure to COVID-19, the CNO told the network.
"We're going to have to take a closer look at whether or not we can sustain that for a prolonged period of time, and make some recommendations up the chain of command," Gilday said. "... Everybody needs a break every once in a while, and I do think that the toughest challenge ... in a situation like this is trying to understand what that threshold is and not pushing it too far.
"You kind of know when people are tired, people are frazzled."
The Stout is part of Destroyer Squadron Two Six, which deployed with the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group. The ship remained in the Middle East when the rest of the strike group headed back to the U.S. earlier this summer.
The destroyer provided overwatch for more than 550 vessels transiting critical chokepoints in the Middle East, according to the news release on its record-setting deployment.
The Stout has supported both the Ike and Nimitz Carrier Strike Groups patrolling the Bab el Mandeb and Strait of Hormuz, the release added, and has escorted Army logistics support vessels through the region. The crew also supported the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group as it conducted operations in the Middle East.
"We are extremely proud of Stout's accomplishments in theater as they've been operating to ensure freedom of navigation," Vice Adm. Samuel Paparo, head of Naval Forces Central Command, said in a statement. "Under the challenges of COVID-19 and the uncertainty of regional tensions, Stout embodied their motto and prevailed with 'Courage, Valor and Integrity.'"
-- Gina Harkins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.
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