DDG 63 Stethem
"Steadfast and Courageous"
USS Stethem (DDG 63) is the 13th ship of the DDG 51 ARLEIGH BURKE Aegis Destroyer program and the sixth to be built by Ingalls Shipbuilding Division of Litton Industries in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Construction of Stethem began at Ingalls on May 18, 1992 and the ship's keel was laid on May 11, 1993. DDG 63 was launched on June 17, 1994 and was christened "Stethem" by Mrs. Patricia L. Stethem, mother of the ship's namesake, Petty Officer Robert Dean Stethem, on July 16, 1994. Stethem transited the Panama Canal and was commissioned on October 21, 1995 in Port Hueneme, California. Shortly afterward, Stethem moved to her new homeport of San Diego.
On February 15, 1996, Stethem successfully completed her Post Delivery Test and Trials, signifying her readiness for combat operations. On the night of November 23, 1996, while returning from a port visit to Victoria, British Columbia, Stethem was diverted on a Search and Rescue mission to recover survivors of a downed U.S. Air Force C-130 off the coast of northern California. Stethem and her two small boats patrolled the seas in the vicinity of the crash for twenty hours while engaged in recovery efforts, for which she was awarded the U.S. Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation Medal. Stethem was recognized for her spectacular achievements during her first year of service by winning the 1996 Destroyer Squadron Twenty-One Battle Efficiency Award for outstanding ship-wide mission readiness.
On April 4, 1997, Commander Steven Miller, the Pre-commissioning Commanding Officer, was relieved by Commander James O'Keefe III. Stethem sailed to the Arabian Gulf for her maiden overseas deployment in May and reported for duties in Bahrain on July 3. Over the course of the next three months, she served as primary Air Warfare Commander, Surface Warfare Commander, Ready Strike Platform, and LINK Coordinator. While fulfilling these multiple warfare roles, Stethem provided support to both the CONSTELLATION and JOHN F. KENNEDY Battle Groups and U.S. Air Force aircraft engaged in Operation Southern Watch. Stethem supported United Nations Security Council resolutions against Iraq, conducting 54 boardings and inspections of suspected sanctions violators. Stethem's first deployment included port visits to Singapore, Malaysia, Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Perth and Sydney, Australia. She returned to San Diego in November 1997 to begin her second inter-deployment training cycle.
Starting with an outstanding Command Assessment of Readiness for Training (CART II) in May 1998, Stethem set the standard for tailored training by demonstrating exceptional proficiency in Combat Systems, Navigation, Engineering, Mobility, Damage Control, and Logistics Management. Stethem's training teams' commitment to mission readiness resulted in the validation of all Final Evaluation Period objectives during Tailored Shipboard Training Availability Phase III(TSTA III) - a first for any Surface Combatant.
On April 16, 1999, Stethem departed on her second deployment to the Arabian Gulf as part of Middle East Force 99-2. After port visits to Guam, Saipan, Singapore, and Thailand, Stethem reported for duty in the Gulf and quickly went to work conducting Freedom of Navigation Operations and Maritime Interception Operations. Over the course of her seventy-six days on station, Stethem served as Air Warfare Commander, Ready Strike Platform, and Force Over-the-Horizon Track Coordinator and also had the opportunity to support the THEODORE ROOSEVELT Battle Group as Carrier Escort and Plane Guard. After serving a second time as command ship for Northern Arabian Gulf Maritime Interception Operations, Stethem transited the Strait of Hormuz on 13 August. After port visits to Fremantle and Port Kembla, Australia and Suva, Fiji, the ship arrived home in San Diego on October 4.
In January, the ship was honored for her achievements and awarded with the 1999 Destroyer Squadron Twenty-One Battle Efficiency Award, her second such award in just over four years of service. She was the recipient of the Raytheon CIWS Award, the Pacific Force Retention Award, and the Safety Award.
Following another sterling Command Assessment of Readiness and Training (CART II), Stethem again set the standard by completing the Final Evaluation Period (FEP) during TSTA III. In mid-September and during a port visit in San Francisco, Stethem was called out to sea by the Joint Inter-Agency Task Force West. Stethem escorted fishing vessel Gran Tauro, caught with over five metric tons of uncut cocaine aboard - a net worth of over $500 million, to San Diego. The waning days of December were spent conducting final preparations for the MEF 01-1 Deployment and relaxing after another successful year of operations and training.
In January the ship was honored for her achievements and awarded with the 2000 Destroyer Squadron Twenty-One Battle Efficiency Award for the second consecutive year. On January 13, 2001, Stethem departed on her third deployment to the Arabian Gulf as part of MEF 01-1. After port visits to Hawaii, Guam, Singapore, and Thailand, Stethem in-chopped FIFTH Fleet on February 28, 2001. Over the course of her sixty-eight days on station in the Arabian Gulf, Stethem conducted Maritime Interception Operations, served as Air Warfare Commander, supported Operation Southern Watch, served as a ready strike platform, and participated as a key player in two international naval exercises, Arabian Gauntlet and Neon Falcon. Maritime Interception Operations resulted in the capture of motor vessel Diamond, the third largest arrest of an oil-smuggling sanctions violator since the Gulf War. Stethem escorted the HARRY S TRUMAN through the Strait of Hormuz on 27 April and, after port visits to Oman, Singapore, Darwin and Cairns, Australia, American Somoa, and Hawaii, the ship arrived home in San Diego on June 28.
After enjoying Post-Oversees Movement Stand-down, Stethem supported the JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74) Battle Group during their Final Battle Problem as an opposing force. In early September, Stethem went through INSURV inspections and once again set the standard. Within hours after the terrorist attack in New York City and Washington, D.C. on September 11, Stethem, already underway for INSURV, was called into station in support of OPERATION NOBLE EAGLE and tasked with conducting air surveillance of the approaches to San Diego and providing Air Defense coverage to vital shipping assets.
On September 30, Stethem entered her third Drydock Selective Restricted Availability (DSRA) at Southwest Marine and Continental Maritime Shipyards. The purpose of this nine-week availability was to install equipment enhancements and quality of life upgrades. During this period, the Program Executive Office of Theater Surface Combatants (PEO-TSC) announced that Stethem would be the lead ship for the testing of the Tactical Tomahawk Weapons Control System (TTWCS), the next generation of STRIKE warfare capability.
Stethem departed the drydock on October 30th, and moved to Continental Maritime Shipyard in San Diego. Upon her return to Naval Station San Diego on the 6th of December, Stethem marked the end of the 9.4 million dollar refurbishment and refitting period. Stethem was underway the following week to begin working up for her next deployment. Upon her return to port of the 14th of December, Stethem began her holiday leave and standown period.
After holiday leave, the crew assembled in mid-January to continue efforts in support of the inter-deployment training cycle and Tactical Tomahawk testing. In early February, Stethem anchored off the coast of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where the crew enjoyed some hard-earned liberty. This was the first foreign port visit by any U.S. Combatant since the terrorist attacks on America on September 11, 2001.
Dark blue and gold, on the shield of the Stethem's Coat of Arms, are the colors traditionally associated with the Navy and represent the sea and excellence. Red is emblematic of sacrifice and valor. Blue represents loyalty; white integrity. The shield symbolizes the power and protection of Aegis, the shield of Zeus. The bronze star honors the posthumous award Petty Officer Stethem received for bravery in the face of adversity. The anchor represents naval strength and a strong global presence. The thunderbolts signify the firepower of USS STETHEM. The border reflects unity, and the orle of rivets commemorates Petty Officer Stethem's service as a Seabee in Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Sixty-Two.
The lion on the crest characterizes courage, strength, and determination. the lion grasps a trident, symbol of sea prowess. the bottom spike of the trident points to the Ocean depths, commemorating Petty Officer Stethem's service as a diver in Underwater Construction Team One.
Red, white and blue are the National colors and represent the colors of the Bronze Star Medal for heroism. The motto "STEADFAST AND COURAGEOUS" underscores the spirit of Petty Officer Stethem, his firmness of purpose, unwavering loyalty to country and bravery in facing difficulty and danger without fear.
Robert Dean Stethem
USS Stethem (DDG - 63) is the first U.S. Navy warship named to honor the life and service of Steelworker Second Class (DV) Robert Dean Stethem, USN (1961 - 1985). Petty Officer Stethem entered the Navy on May 4, 1981. He attended recruit training in Great Lakes, Illinois, and was assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Sixty - Two, home ported at Gulfport, Mississippi. In October 1984, he was assigned to Underwater Construction Team One at Little Creek, Virginia.
Petty Officer Stethem was a victim of the terrorist hijacking of Trans World Airlines Flight 847 to Beirut, Lebanon on June 14, 1985. He was returning from an assignment in Nea Makri, Greece when the terrorists seized the aircraft. Petty Officer Stethem was singled out from the passengers as a U.S. Navy Sailor and killed when terrorist demands were not met. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart in 1985 and the Bronze Star in 1986.
Petty Officer Stethem's family has a long and proud Naval history. Both of Petty Officer Stethem's parents served in the U.S. Navy as well as civil service posts. His father, Richard, served for twenty six years retiring as a Senior Chief Petty Officer. Petty Officer Stethem's mother Patricia, was a Storekeeper before leaving the Navy to raise a family. Petty Officer Stethem's brothers, Kenneth and Patrick, also proudly served in the Navy; Kenneth as a Chief Boatswains Mate and Navy Seal, Patrick a Steelworker Second Class.
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