A "regular old homecoming" was planned to celebrate the return of the USS Vincennes less than four months after it mistakenly shot down an Iranian airliner, Navy officials said.
The Vincennes was slated to end its 180-day deployment by docking at its home port Monday afternoon."It's going to be a big story, and we understand that, (but) it's a regular old homecoming we're planning," said Senior Chief Petty Officer Steve Hiney.
"Excited family members will be on the pier and excited sailors on the ship," Hiney said. "New fathers are going to be seeing new kids for the first time. The wives and girlfriends, mothers and fathers are going to be there."
The welcoming for the cruiser's 400-member crew was to include a Navy band and remarks by Rep. Bill Lowery, R-Calif., and William Rose, mayor of Vincennes, Ind. The city, like the ship, was named for a Revolutionary War battle.
Navy officials wanted to ensure that the crew's return from an extended deployment wasn't perceived by the public as "one of those Vietnam things with the ship coming in at midnight," said Navy spokesman Cmdr. David Dillon. "We're inviting people to watch," he said. "People understand this was an arduous deployment. The sailors have a lot of public support."
The Vincennes, equipped with the Navy's modern Aegis combat control system, accidently downed the Iranian civilian aircraft over the Persian Gulf on July 3, killing all 290 people aboard.
The official Pentagon report concluded the crew mistook the airliner for an Iranian F-14 fighter jet and said crew members misintrepreted computer and radar data because of stress in their first combat situation. At the time, the Vincennes was engaged in a firefight with several Iranian gunboats.
Lowery organized a volunteer effort that gathered 10,000 signatures and sent the messages of support to the crew in the Persian Gulf after the tragedy.
"I empathized with how low the crew, the officers and the skipper (Capt. Will Rogers III) were feeling," Lowery said. "I just wanted to let them know that we understood."