SAN DIEGO (NNS)- The guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins (DDG 76) will depart San Diego Jan. 20 on a six-month independent deployment to the 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR).

Higgins will help provide deterrence, promote peace and security, preserve freedom of the sea and humanitarian/disaster response, and will support the Navy's Maritime Strategy.

Higgins will also be tasked with providing ballistic missile defense (BMD) to U.S. and allied forces in the Middle East. BMD is a core capability of the Navy that enhances deterrence and provides an umbrella of protection to forward-deployed forces and allies.

In early 2010, during the final leg of its previous deployment, Higgins was the first ship diverted to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the country.

The ship served as a ready-refueling flight deck, continuously replenishing U.S. Navy and Coast Guard helicopters transporting goods and injured civilians from disaster sites to medical facilities. Higgins' small boats were also used to transfer supplies and wounded from shore to Coast Guard cutters for further medical evacuation.

For more news from Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/c3f/.