In this file photo, USS Cowpens (CG 63) fires a Standard Missiles (SM) 2 at an airborne drone during a live-fire weapons shoot in the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paul Kelly)

SAN DIEGO - The guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) is scheduled to return from the 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR) April 8 after completing its forward-deployed mission and a hull swap with USS Antietam (CG 54).

Cowpens has been forward deployed to Yokosuka since 2000 and recently participated in the widely-lauded Operation Tomodachi, which assisted Japan following the 2011 devastating earthquake and the ensuing tsunami.

"We are honored to bring USS Cowpens back home once again to San Diego after more than 10 distinguished years in the forward deployed naval forces in Yokosuka," said USS Cowpens Commanding Officer Capt. Robert Tortora. "After spending most of 2012 preparing USS Antietam for forward operations, the crew conducted a professional and well-executed turnover with Cowpens this February, and then worked diligently to learn the differences between the two hulls and how to operate Cowpens at sea. I am very proud of the efforts of all hands to first make Antietam ready and then make themselves fully mission capable in Cowpens."

Cowpens will conduct operations and training within Third Fleet's 50-million square mile AOR.

U.S. Third Fleet leads naval forces in the Eastern Pacific from the West coast of North America to the international date line.