USS Stethem Heads to San Diego After 14 Years in Japan

July 2, 2019 6:50 PM - Updated: July 3, 2019 6:22 AM
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG-63) is anchored off the coast of Shimoda, Japan, during the 80th Shimoda Black Ship Festival. US Navy Photo

USS Stethem (DDG-63) returned to U.S. 3rd Fleet over the weekend, as the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer steamed to its new homeport in San Diego, Calif.

For the past 14 years, Stethem was part of the forward-deployed U.S. 7th Fleet force operating out of Yokosuka, Japan. In 2005, when Stethem first arrived in Japan, the destroyer operated alongside now decommissioned conventional-powered aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63). Among Stethem’s last missions in Japan, the destroyer in May assisted the Japan-led search for a missing Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35S that crashed earlier this year.

“It has been an honor and privilege for Steelworkers and our families to be part of the Forward Deployed Naval Forces – Japan community for the last 14 years. The opportunity to serve alongside incredible waterfront shipmates and operate with our JMSDF allies, flexing every mission area in the most challenging operational environment is truly unmatched,” Cmdr. John Rummel, Stethem’s commanding officer, said in a 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!”

Stethem is named for Steelworker Second Class (SW2) Robert Stethem, a U.S. Navy Seabee diver. In 1985, while returning from an assignment in the Middle East, Stethem was killed by terrorists in Beirut, Lebanon, when his plane, TWA Flight 847, was hijacked.

USS Stethem was commissioned in 1995 and was homeported in San Diego before moving to Japan in 2005, according to the Navy. When Stethem returns to San Diego, the destroyer is scheduled for a midlife modernization, according to the Navy.

Stethem is slated to be fitted with a modern combat system suite, which includes upgraded air defense, ballistic missile defense, surface warfare and undersea warfare capabilities, USNI News previously reported.

Following the 2017 collisions of USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) with a pair of commercial ships in U.S. 7th Fleet, Navy leaders and lawmakers on Capitol Hill discussed imposing limits on the amount of time a ship could be homeported overseas. Navy leadership balked at being held to a strict schedule, but some ships, including McCain, had been based in 7th Fleet for nearly two decades.

Ben Werner

Ben Werner

Ben Werner is a staff writer for USNI News. He has worked as a freelance writer in Busan, South Korea, and as a staff writer covering education and publicly traded companies for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., Savannah Morning News in Savannah, Ga., and Baltimore Business Journal. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree from New York University.

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