Destroyer USS Stethem returns from 14-year deployment

US Navy’s guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) has returned to the US after spending 14 years forward-deployed to Japan as part of the US 7th Fleet.

The destroyer arrived at its new homeport of Naval Base San Diego on July 18.

Stethem traded Fleet Activities Yokosuka with San Diego as its new homeport to complete a planned maintenance and modernization period. It will be fitted with the latest combat system suite, which includes air defense, ballistic missile defense, surface warfare and undersea warfare capabilities.

“Naval Base San Diego is excited to welcome the officers and crew of USS Stethem to the navy’s finest installation,” said Naval Base San Diego (NBSD) Commanding Officer Capt. Mark Nieswiadomy. “Stethem is joining one of the fastest growing fleet concentration areas in the world, and my team and I are standing by to provide first-class support to the sailors and families of this fine warship in order to make their transition from 7th Fleet to 3rd Fleet as smooth as possible.”

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 of 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, commissioned in 1995 at Port Hueneme, California, is named in honor of Navy Seabee Petty Officer Robert Dean Stethem, who was killed in 1985 during the hijacking of TWA Flight 847. Stethem, a passenger on the flight, was singled out by the terrorists because of his military status. Stethem was badly beaten and ultimately executed.

Photo: USS Stethem (DDG 63) arrived at its new homeport, Naval Base San Diego, July 18, 2019. Photo: US Navy