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USS Stethem returning stateside after concluding 14-year deployment with 7th Fleet

The guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem is anchored off the coast of Shimoda, Japan, during the 80th Shimoda Black Ship Festival, May 17, 2019.

TYLER FRASER/U.S. NAVY

By CHRISTIAN LOPEZ | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 2, 2019

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — After 14 years in the Indo-Pacific region with the 7th Fleet, the USS Stethem is returning to San Diego to operate under 3rd Fleet once more.

Once the guided-missile destroyer reaches its new homeport, it will undertake a “midlife modernization,” according to a Navy statement released Monday.

Arriving at Yokosuka in June 2005, the Stethem operated as part of a strike group with the now-decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk.

“The opportunity to serve alongside incredible waterfront shipmates and operate with our [Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force] allies, flexing every mission area in the most challenging operational environment is truly unmatched,” Cmdr. John Rummel, the Stethem’s commanding officer, said in the statement. “We offer our sincerest appreciation to all of those that supported Stethem, our Steelworkers and families during our time in Yokosuka and wish them continued success in the years to come!”

The Stethem’s namesake, Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Stethem, a Navy Seabee diver, was killed in Beirut during the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in 1985, according to the Navy. The ship was commissioned Oct. 21, 1995.

While attached to the 7th Fleet, the Stethem took part in a variety of operations ranging from search-and-rescue missions and disaster relief, to joint and three-carrier operations, according to the statement.

In 2011, the Stethem and its crew took part in Operation Tomodachi, the three-month relief effort to northeastern Japan that followed the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami that killed nearly 16,000 people.

In April, the ship joined a Japan-led search for a missing Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A stealth fighter.

The destroyer also took part in several multinational exercises in South and Southeast Asia, including Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, Cobra Gold with Thailand and cooperative deployments with ships from the JMSDF.

“Stethem has operated at the top of her game as part of Destroyer Squadron 15 while being forward deployed,” Capt. Jonathan Duffy, squadron commander, said in the statement. “Her support to the mission improved our relationships with key allies and has become an integral part of our presence in the Indo-Pacific region. I’m extremely proud of the accomplishments of the Steelworkers and I’m looking forward to what comes after the homeport change.”

lopez.christian@stripes.com
Twitter: @CLopez_Stripes

 

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