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USS Stephen W. Groves to Return from Deployment

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS040317-08

Release Date: 3/17/2004 6:01:00 PM

By Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet Public Affairs

PASCAGULA, MISS. (NNS) -- The guided-missile frigate USS Stephen W. Groves (FFG 29) will return to its homeport at Naval Station Pascagoula, March 22, after a six-month deployment in support of counter-drug operations.

After departing Pascagoula Sept. 25, Groves patrolled nearly 4 million square nautical miles of water in the Caribbean Sea and Eastern Pacific Ocean, and logged 14,000 nautical miles. While deployed, Groves was a key asset in the ongoing joint effort with the U.S. Coast Guard to combat the flow of illicit drugs into the United States.

During this most recent deployment, the ship's crew worked with Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment 201 and other assets from Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) South to track, intercept and search vessels suspected of transporting illegal drugs. The crew seized 740 kilos of illegal drugs. They also rescued 104 Ecuadorian migrants in the Eastern Pacific.

"A six-month deployment is tough on the crew and our families, but we're keeping millions of dollars worth of cocaine off the streets of America," said Electrician's Mate 2nd Class (SW) Ardell Washington. "That's something real, and it makes the sacrifice and hard work of a long deployment worthwhile. Our success out here makes coming home even more rewarding."

Highlights of Groves' deployment included 12 enlisted Sailors earning their Enlisted Surface Warfare (ESWS) pins, six officers earning their Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) pins, two who qualified as Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW) and nine who qualified as Officer of the Deck (OOD). The ship made 15 port visits, and conducted community relations projects in Vasco Nunez de Balboa, Panama, and Manta, Ecuador, refurbishing schoolhouses and medical clinics. The ship transited the Panama Canal four times, and made several crossings of the Equator, both highlights in any Sailor's career.

Groves, with Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 42 Det. 10 out of Mayport, Fla., embarked, chased down two "go fast" drug-running vessels, captured their crews and seized approximately 2.2 metric tons of cocaine. With the assistance of several Coast Guard detachments, the crew boarded 13 vessels suspected of narcotics trafficking.

"Our primary mission is to impede the flow of cocaine from South America, and to make it hard for the smugglers to operate," said Lt. William Rayburn, Groves' combat systems officer. "We're definitely doing that. It makes me proud to contribute directly to the war on drugs and the war on terror at the same time. Every bust we make is a victory that prevents cocaine from reaching our streets, and keeps money from reaching terrorists."

"I am extremely proud of the performance of the entire crew," said Cmdr. Rudy Laco, Groves' commanding officer. "The officers and crew performed superbly as one unit, which resulted in an extremely successful deployment."

Groves is an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, and is one of four ships in the Atlantic Fleet that has the distinction of serving as a training platform for Naval Reservists. It is a unit of Commander, Naval Surface Group 2, out of Mayport, Fla., and is assigned to Commander, Destroyer Squadron 6, also homeported at Naval Station Pascagoula.

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