Navy frigate USS De Wert returns from final deployment
In service for 30 years, the frigate USS De Wert is named for Medal of Honor recipient Richard De Wert, a hospital corpsman who died in the Korean War.
The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union
The USS De Wert pulled into its homeport of Mayport Naval Station one last time Monday morning, two days before Christmas on an incoming tide of comfort and joy.
Families waited for their sailors to scuttle off the De Wert as families have done throughout the frigate’s 30 years in service — but this time will be the last.
The De Wert, scheduled to be decommissioned in 2014, returned along with her sister ship, the destroyer USS The Sullivans, after a five-month deployment conducting anti-piracy operations.
Ironically, guided-missile destroyers such as The Sullivans are one of the main reasons frigates are going the way of VHS recorders.
“The frigates were designed nearly 40 years ago and were really tied to a World War II mentality of naval warfare,” said Capt. Ryan Tillotson, commander of Destroyer Squadron 14. “The Aegis destroyers really improved upon the frigates’ capabilities and fulfilling that historical mission of escorting the carrier and providing the guided-missile capability with an enhanced radar.”
Along with the destroyers, the new littoral combat ships and amphibious ready groups — made up of ships like the USS New York that arrived in early December — are also phasing out the frigates.
“With the littoral combat ships, they add that near-shore/in-shore capability plus they come with a multi-mission module,” Tillotson said. “So whereas the frigate was kind of locked in to the mission set it could do, littoral combat ships can do a variety of different missions.”
Along with the De Wert, frigates USS Robert G. Bradley and USS Halyburton are also scheduled to be decommissioned in 2014. The three remaining frigates at Mayport, once the largest frigate port in the East Coast, will be decommissioned in 2015.
But for the families waiting at the pier, not even the end of a proud ship could dampen their mood.
Logan Parks didn’t say much, but then again he’s only 4 months old.
But he got to meet his dad, Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeremy Parks, for the first time Monday.
“It wasn’t easy,” Denisse Parks said of being eight months pregnant when her husband left on the De Wert. “We were able to send pictures through email and Skype twice, but that’s about it. So this is great.”
Stacey Beaton stood holding the daughter of Petty Officer 2nd Class Dennis Beaton. She said her 5-year-old daughter, Olivia, only asked for two things for Christmas: “A cake-pop maker and what else?” Stacey asked her.
“Daddy,” Olivia said.