US destroyer leaves 7th Fleet after 14 years forward deployed

The US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) returned to the US 3rd Fleet area of operations on June 30, following 14 years of forward-deployed service in the Indo-Pacific region operating from Japan.

The destroyer is en route to San Diego, where she will be homeported and undergo her midlife modernization, the navy said.

As part of the US 7th Fleet’s Forward Deployed Naval Forces in Japan, Stethem worked alongside allies and partners to provide security and stability throughout a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Stethem arrived in Yokosuka, Japan, in June 2005 while under the command of Cmdr. Robert Gonzales and operated alongside the now decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) as part of the Kitty Hawk Strike Group.

While serving in 7th Fleet, Stethem conducted a wide range of operations, exercises and port visits, including disaster relief as well as search and rescue missions. In 2011, the ship supported Operation Tomodachi to provide relief to Japanese citizens affected by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, and this year, joined Japan-led search operations for a missing Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35.

Stethem also operated in several joint operations, including Resilient Shield 18 and tri-carrier operations with the aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68).

“Stethem has operated at the top of her game as part of DESRON 15 while being forward deployed. 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,” Capt. Jonathan Duffy, commander, Destroyer Squadron 15, said.

Stethem participated in multiple multinational exercises including, Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) with regional navies in South and Southeast Asia, Cobra Gold with Thailand, and multiple cooperative deployments with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ships.

Along with participating in exercises, Stethem Sailors conducted port calls in multiple countries in the region, including Australia, Bahrain, China, Indonesia, Singapore, the Republic of Korea, and Thailand.

Third Fleet leads all naval forces in the Pacific and provides the realistic, relevant training for the navy. Third Fleet coordinates with US 7th Fleet to plan and execute missions based on their complementary strengths to promote ongoing peace, security, and stability throughout the entire Pacific theater of operations.

Photo: The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem. Photo: US Navy