The guided-missile frigate USS Vandegrift. Navy photo

Rain and heavy seas didn’t prevent the frigate USS Vandegrift from returning home to San Diego on Friday after a seven-month deployment.

The Vandegrift received national attention in April for its part in the rescue of a San Diego family whose 36-foot sailboat broke down during a round-the-world voyage and their year-old daughter got sick.

A four-man team from the Bay Area-based 129th Rescue Wing of the California Air National Guard parachuted into the ocean to board the drifting sailboat. Charlotte and Eric Kaufman, the sick infant Lyra and their other daughter, 3-year-old Cora, were subsequently transferred to the Vandegrift, which returned them to San Diego.

The 30-year-old vessel, which will now be prepared for decommissioning, left San Diego May 9 for anti-drug smuggling missions off Central America.

The sailors and a U.S. Coast Guard detachment intercepted nearly 20,000 pounds of cocaine and disrupted numerous other illegal drug shipments, according to the Navy.

“I am extremely proud of this ship and this crew,” said Cmdr. Kevin Ralston, Vandegrift’s commanding officer. “USS Vandegrift’s superior performance and exceptional operational success during this seven-month deployment were nothing short of outstanding.”

The crew also took part in community relations projects in Panama City, during which 36 sailors helped build a workshop for the blind, assisted an outreach group in refurbishing its building and spent time with children in the “Aid for AIDS” community, Navy officials said.

The boat is named for General Alexander Vandegrift, a Medal of Honor recipient who led Marines in the Battle of Guadalcanal during World War II and later served as 18th commandant of the United States Marine Corps.

Frigates are being phased out and replaced by littoral combat ships — fast, maneuverable vessels designed for combat in shallow, coastal waters.

— City News Service

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