USS Stethem returns
The USS Stethem returns to San Diego on Thursday. Navy photo

The guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem arrived at its new homeport of Naval Base San Diego on Thursday, following 14 years of forward-deployed service in Japan.

The Arleigh Burke-class ship was based in San Diego after it joined the fleet in 1995 , but moved to Yokosuka in 2005.

Its crew are nicknamed “Steelworkers” in honor of the ship’s namesake, Steelworker 2nd Class Robert D. Stethem, a Navy diver who was killed by terrorists after the hijacking of Flight TWA 847 in 1985.

“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 Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force allies, flexing every mission area in the most challenging operational environment, is truly unmatched,” said Cmdr. John Rummel, the destroyer’s commanding officer.

“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,” he added.

While serving in the 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 the Japanese-led search for a missing Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35 fighter.

While in San Diego, the Stethem will undergo a planned maintenance and modernization period. The ship will be fitted with the latest combat systems, which include state-of-the art 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 Capt. Mark Nieswiadomy, commanding officer of Naval Base San Diego. “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.”

Updated at 7:10 a.m., Friday, July 19, 2019

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.