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December 1, 2014 / iDriveWarships

USS Rodney M. Davis Sunset Deployment: Sustaining Pacific Partnerships and Meeting New Friends

Cmdr. Whalen with Cmdr. Andike during the ship’s visit to Indonesia

By Cmdr. Todd Whalen, Commanding Officer of USS Rodney M. Davis (FFG 60)

We are “Bold Runners.” Sergeant Rodney Maxwell Davis sacrificed his life for his fellow Marines on the field of battle in Vietnam, and we honor him by boldly executing the mission. During USS Rodney M. Davis’ (RMD) sunset deployment, that mission was to conduct theater security cooperation with our allies, sustain Pacific partnerships, and make new friends.

The ship left Everett, Washington on June 12 and steamed west to join 48 other ships from 22 countries for Rim of the Pacific 2014, the world’s largest international maritime exercise. We trained in multiple warfare areas, helped improve interoperability with allies, and made many new friends from around the globe. We thought we said our goodbyes at the closing ceremonies, but time would soon prove us wrong.

Following RIMPAC, we joined Battle Force Seventh Fleet, crossed the equator, and jumped right into another multi-national event – Sail Raja Ampat, Indonesia. The highlight was a 50-ship parade of sail for the President of Indonesia, which included ships from Indonesia, Singapore and Australia.

A few weeks later, we anchored in the Maldives—the first U.S. warship to visit in more than four years. When we hosted the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) Chief of Defense and his staff onboard, my Executive Officer, Cmdr. Shockey Snyder, re-connected with his old Naval Academy classmate, Colonel Mohammad Ibrahim, the Commander of the MNDF Coast Guard. During our visit, MNDF soldiers graciously took RMD Sailors snorkeling and surfing, and on our departure, my Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) team conducted a boarding demonstration for the MNDF.

Our next stop was Belawan, Indonesia, near Medan, the capital of Sumatra. On our way in, we met up with the Indonesian warship KRI Sultan Hasanuddin and conducted maneuvering and communications exercises. The next day, I found myself onboard having tea with her Captain, Heri Triwibowo, sketching ship mooring configurations to plan guest transportation to our reception at anchor. Later in our visit, 40 RMD Sailors conducted large and small-group cultural exchanges with over 800 Indonesian high school and university students. It was a life-changing experience for my Sailors, and we really came to understand what Pacific partnership is all about.

In addition to scheduled theater security cooperation events, we had several unplanned meetings with Pacific partners. While on patrol in the South China Sea, we unexpectedly crossed paths with PLA(N) Yueyang (FFG 575). A few months earlier, I met her Commanding Officer at a RIMPAC reception, and we spent the better part of a day alongside at 500 yds during the RIMPAC photo exercise. In the South China Sea, we traded greetings and shared a memory as our ships exchanged maneuvering signals. Partnership and cooperation made the Pacific Ocean seem small that day.

Our most recent tasking was Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT), Brunei. This was the 20th year of CARAT and another chance to work with a RIMPAC sister ship, the KDB Darulaman. CARAT is more intimate than a big event like RIMPAC, so my crew was able to really get to know their counterparts from the Royal Brunei Armed Forces during events afloat and ashore, including a female engagement symposium, a bilateral medical evacuation exercise, helicopter deck-landing qualifications, and VBSS exercises. One of my favorite events was the “curry lunch,” where I swapped RIMPAC and deployment sea stories with Lt. Col. Muhammad Hadi Syarifuddin bin Abdullah Mega, the Darulaman Commanding Officer.

As I write this, USS Rodney M. Davis (FFG 60) is heading for home, and my crew is excited to return to their families and friends. With decommissioning looming, it will be a bittersweet homecoming. But if we’ve learned anything on deployment, it’s that the crew is the soul of the ship, and Sailors breathe life into the ship’s steel decks. Those same Sailors are the lifeblood of Pacific partnership and theater security cooperation, whether it’s a bilateral exercise like CARAT or a multinational event like RIMPAC. We’ve certainly grown closer as shipmates, and we’ve made many new friends from around the globe. These are relationships that will last a lifetime.

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