PEARL HARBOR (Nov. 14, 2011) The guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) pulls in to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) after returning from a seven-month independent deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Dustin W. Sisco)

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - The guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) returned to her homeport Nov. 14 following a seven-month deployment to the Western Pacific and U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

Hopper served as an embarkation platform in the transition of the Iraqi maritime mission back to the Government of Iraq and directly contributed to the safe transfer of over 8.5 billion dollars in Iraqi oil to countries around the world.

Rear Adm. Dixon R. Smith, Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, welcomed home the crew of more than 275 Sailors, who also conducted Ballistic Missile Defense operations, as well as maritime interdiction operations and theater security cooperation, supporting the nation's Maritime Strategy.

During her return, on Oct. 25, Hopper transited waters of the WWII Battle of Leyte Gulf exactly 67 years after the decisive battle, observing a moment of silence.

On Nov. 4 Hopper conducted a change of command ceremony in Apra Harbor, Guam. Deputy Commander of Destroyer Squadron 31 Capt. Wallace Lovely congratulated Cmdr. Kevin Melody for a job well done as the commanding officer. Melody was relieved by Cmdr. Al Lopez.

Commenting as Hopper returned home, Lopez said, "I am extremely proud of the hard work and dedication of the officers and Sailors aboard USS Hopper during this seven-month deployment. They have gone above and beyond the call of duty executing our demanding operational schedule while keeping a steady eye on the maintenance and inspections that await our return."

Lopez added, " I am also very proud of the families of Hopper back home that have supported us so well. Their hard work and devotion to maintaining the home front made it possible for us to remain focused at the 'tip of the spear!' Thank you!"