Today, the staff of Commander Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet gathered together to observe Black History Month with a ceremony and remarks from special guests. The ceremony emphasized this year’s nationwide Black History Month theme of “A Century of Black Life, History and Culture.”
Capt. Paul Hogue, Commander of Destroyer Squadron 23, served as the keynote speaker for the event. A special presentation was made by former Marines who attended basic training at the historic Camp Montford Point, located in North Carolina.
Retired Marine Corps First Sgt. Joe Earl Jackson and retired Gunnery Sgt. J. T. Ingle, both Camp Montford Point alumni, shared their stories of military life during segregation with those who attended the ceremony.
Today, there are more than 120,000 African American active duty, reservists and civilians in the Navy Total Force.
Commander Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (SURFPAC) welcomed eight Sailors to San Diego for its annual Sea and Shore Sailor of the Year week. The Sailor of the Year program recognizes individuals who best represent each command while upholding the highest traditions of the U.S. Navy. Related events honor each of the finalists for their contributions to their commands and local communities while evaluating their military bearing, professional performance and leadership skills. This week the finalists are competing for the title of Sailor of the Year, to be announced Feb. 27.
By MC1(SW/AW) Joseph M. Buliavac, USS San Diego Public Affairs
As USS San Diego (LPD 22) sits off the coast of Camp Pendleton offloading Marines and their equipment today, the crew is getting excited about tomorrow’s homecoming. Deployment homecomings are one of the most anticipated events for Sailors, Marines and their families. In the case of San Diego it’s even more important and monumental, because the ship is returning from her 26,000-nautical-mile maiden deployment.
The deployment included some noteworthy events and milestones. The ship responded to a Pacific Fleet humanitarian assistance request to recover three National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sponsored scientists from the Pearl and Hermes Atoll, a remote island in the Pacific Ocean, threatened by Hurricane Iselle. Two small boats containing Navy and Marine Corps recovery teams transited the challenging seas for six nautical miles before reaching the opening to the island chain where the three NOAA scientists awaited help. At only 12 feet above sea level at the highest point, the small islet was in danger of being flooded by the hurricane storm surge.
San Diego’s Engineering Department was able to conduct any and all major maintenance and repair evolutions while at sea, ensuring the ship’s mission and operational tempo was uninterrupted. This resulted in a 26-day, over 13,000nm, full-power run from the northern Red Sea to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii—a feat never before accomplished by a San Antonio-class LPD.
San Diego pushed Information Dominance Warfare by aligning the ship’s Information Dominance Corps ratings. The crew’s intelligence, electronic warfare, cryptologic, and communications teams innovated by re-scoping their mission sets and operated as an Information Dominance Operations Cell (IDOC). This unique alignment concept resulted in San Diego establishing benchmarks with record-breaking results leading to the ship being recognized as the U.S. 7th Fleet Cryptologic Ship of the Quarter, 4th quarter 2014.
Having spent 200 out of a 216-day deployment out to sea, San Diego did manage to make a few port calls. The crew enjoyed some well deserved time off in Aqaba, Jordan; Hong Kong, and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. During some of these visits they took part in a variety of community relations activities. These events included spending time with underprivileged children in Hong Kong, a friendly soccer match with a Royal Jordanian Navy team, and a familiarization visit to a mosque.
Of course, no deployment would be complete without Sailors receiving recognition for their hard work. Five officers earned their Surface Warfare Officer qualification; three earned the Command Duty Officer qualification; and 14 officers, one Senior Chief Petty Officer and one Chief Petty Officer completed the Officer of the Deck qualification. Four officers were also promoted to the next rank, while 204 Sailors were awarded the Enlisted Surface Warfare qualification, and 57 enlisted Sailors were advanced to the next pay grade.
Over the last seven months, USS San Diego has:
• completed five full vehicle and equipment offloads in five countries,
• received 4.1 million gallons of fuel,
• produced 5 million gallons of water,
• conducted 40,000 man-hours in repairs,
• completed a full vehicle & equipment wash down in three days vice the normal seven,
• flew 1821.2 flight hours,
• completed 2,593 passenger movements,
• moved 12,146,725 lbs. of cargo,
• took on 908 tons of food,
• took on 507 tons in stores, parts and supplies,
• received 65 tons of mail,
• completed 20 Replenishments at Sea, and
• conducted 37 well deck operations.
The crew has done the work and now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of their labor. With all of their hard work and accomplishments, San Diego’s maiden deployment is—without a doubt—one the crew and the city she was named after can be proud of!
The ship was named for Gen. Alexander Vandegrift, the 18th commandant of the Marine Corps and the first U.S. Marine to hold the rank of four-star general while on active duty. The 1st Marine Division was under command of Vandegrift during WWII where he led them to victory during the Battle of Guadalcanal, earning the Medal of Honor for his efforts.
Maj. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, commander of the 1st Marine Division based at Camp Pendleton, was the keynote speaker during the somber decommissioning ceremony. The ship’s first commanding officer, retired Capt. Coneway, was also in attendance to speak about the ship’s accomplished history.
The ship returned from its final deployment last December to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility. As part of the counter-transnational organized crime mission Operation Martillo, USS Vandegrift patrolled the illicit trafficking routes in the waters off Central America, intercepting almost 20,000 pounds of cocaine.
USS Vandegrift is the 38th Oliver Hazard Perry class guided-missile frigate, and was commissioned on Nov. 24, 1984 in Seattle.
A major milestone for the Navy’s littoral combat ship (LCS) program, LCS Crew 103 known as the “Rough Riders,” will fly out of San Diego this Sunday to meet USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) in Singapore. This will be the first operational demonstration of the “3-2-1″ rotational crew concept where three crews rotate between two ships, with one of the two ships always forward deployed.
Crew 103 will assume command of the ship from Crew 104, known as the “Juggernauts,” and continue the mission of forward presence. During their deployment, the Rough Riders will conduct several port visits and take part in exercises with regional navies, including the first exercise involving an LCS in Northeast Asia.
As for the Juggernauts, after coming home and getting some much-deserved rest, they will head to Marinette, Wis. to take delivery of the next LCS, the future USS Milwaukee (LCS 5), set to be delivered later this year.
When USS Fort Worth departed San Diego last November for a 16-month deployment, she was equipped with the Surface Warfare mission package and embarked aviation detachment. This is the ship’s maiden deployment and beginning of a continuous LCS presence in Singapore. This is also the first deployment of a composite aviation detachment on an LCS, with the “Magicians” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35 combining the MH-60 helicopter and the Vertical Take-off and landing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.
A ship decommissioning is typically a somber affair. When a ship is commissioned, eager and smiling Sailors bring the ship to life. But the decommissioning ceremony is more like a funeral, as Sailors bid farewell and shed a few tears.
Last Friday, my crew and I said goodbye to USS Rodney M. Davis (FFG 60), named after Sgt. Rodney Maxwell Davis, USMC, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for sacrificing his life for his fellow Marines on the field of battle in Vietnam.
Sgt. Davis’ wife, Judy, the ship’s sponsor, christened the ship and was on hand when the ship was commissioned on May 9, 1987. Twenty-eight years later, over 40 members of the Davis family joined my crew at our decommissioning ceremony. Sgt. Davis’ siblings: Gordon, Howard, Robert and Debra watched as we disembarked the crew. His daughters, Samantha and Nichola, helped us haul down our colors and commissioning pennant. After the ceremony, Rodney Maxwell Davis II and III walked our steel decks.
As expected, it was a sad day, but also a time to celebrate the life of an American hero and the ship bearing his name. In a fitting tribute to Sgt. Davis’ legacy, many USS Rodney M. Davis (RMD) plankowners and former crew were on hand for the ceremony. Additionally, several Marines who served with Sgt. Davis in London and Vietnam were in the audience, including some of those he saved with his final valiant act. It was a special day for all RMD Sailors, past and present.
Over 2,000 Bold Runners served on RMD over the years. Commissioned May 9, 1987, the ship left for Yokosuka, Japan the following year and spent the first half of her career as part of our Forward Deployed Naval Forces. While assigned to Destroyer Squadron 15, RMD conducted extensive operations in the Western Pacific Ocean and deployed multiple times to the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea and Gulf of Oman. Mid-career, RMD returned stateside and joined Destroyer Squadron Nine in Everett, Wash. RMD deployed another six times, including three tours of duty in support of Counter-Illicit Trafficking in the Southern Pacific Ocean and a final deployment to the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans.
A week after I assumed command of RMD in May 2013, my crew and I took the ship to sea for the first time in 22 months. After sea trials, it was full speed ahead through basic phase training, a Board of Inspection and Survey, and an early deployment. RMD’s final crew of 197 “decommissioning plankowners” honored Sgt. Davis by doing what every RMD Sailor has done over the years; we worked together to prepare the ship for sustained combat operations at sea, and we did everything we could to make this ship the best it could be. I am in awe of what this crew accomplished in bringing a 28-year-old warship back to life to conduct the nation’s business one last time.
RMD’s mission during our sunset deployment was Pacific partnership and theater security cooperation, and I feel Sgt. Davis would be proud of what this final crew accomplished. It was a whirlwind six months as we steamed over 37,000 nautical miles and visited seven countries, but here are a few memories that stand out for me:
• Operating with 49 ships from 22 countries during exercise Rim of the Pacific
• Welcoming Davy Jones and making a new crop of trusty shellbacks as we crossed the equator
• Joining 50 ships from Indonesia, Singapore and Australia off the coast of New Guinea in the morning fog for a parade of sail
• Visiting Tokyo and listening to the stories of Sailors who climbed Mt. Fuji
• Looking out across the Malacca Strait from downtown Singapore, and then steaming through the next day
• Being the first U.S. ship to visit the Maldives in over four years
• Watching the sun set over the Big Buddha statue while at anchor in Phuket, Thailand
• Cultural exchanges with hundreds of high school students in Medan, Indonesia
• Deck-landing qualifications with a Brunei helicopter in the 20th year of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training
• Being in Pearl Harbor on Pearl Harbor Day
• A final homecoming in Everett
By valor and arms, RMD and her crew have answered the call for 28 years. We honored Sgt. Davis by working together to boldly execute the mission, and we’ll carry his Bold Runner spirit with us for the rest of our lives.