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Fair Winds and Following Seas to O'Brien After 27 Years

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS040503-06

Release Date: 5/3/2004 11:25:00 AM

By Lt. Cmdr. John Bernard, Carrier Group 5 Public Affairs

USS O'BRIEN, At Sea (NNS) -- Spruance-class destroyer USS O'Brien (DD 975) will make a final deployment when her crew takes the ship back to the United States, bringing her 27 years on active duty to a close in May.

Since August 1992, O'Brien has served as part of the Navy's Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF), calling Yokosuka, Japan, home, and in turn, serving as an under way home to more than 1,500 FDNF Sailors.

Cmdr. Fred Harr, O'Brien's commanding officer, acknowledged the upcoming departure with a touch of sadness and spoke on behalf of all O'Brien Sailors.

"It will be hard to leave Japan and the FDNF but we, the crew of O'Brien past and present, are all the richer for our experiences, which will undoubtedly make us better citizens in our own country given our insight on world affairs," he said.

The 13th Spruance-class destroyer, O'Brien was built by Ingalls Shipbuilding Division of Litton Industries in Pascagoula, Miss., and commissioned Dec. 3, 1977. It has served in a multitude of roles and is capable of launching Tomahawk cruise missiles, as well as conducting anti-submarine warfare.

During her service, the ship conducted 14 deployments to the western Pacific and Persian Gulf, earning numerous awards, most recently the Pacific Fleet Naval Surface Force's Phalanx Close-In Weapons System Excellence Award for 2003.

In 1984, on her third deployment, O'Brien took part in two refugee rescue missions in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, earning the Humanitarian Service Medal.

During her fifth deployment, the ship was part of the Middle East Force, operating in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea, and escorting re-flagged Kuwaiti oil tankers as part of Operation Earnest Will. She also participated in Operation Desert Shield in 1990, conducting patrols in the Persian Gulf and investigating more than 400 vessels.

In August 1992, O'Brien sailed from San Diego to join the FDNF in Yokosuka. From there, the ship deployed numerous times to the Persian Gulf and participated in Operation Southern Watch.

O'Brien conducted a short-notice deployment as part of the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Strike Group in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, launching some of that operation's first Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Besides the ship's many deployments, O'Brien participated in numerous multinational and bilateral exercises, and conducted dozens of shorter under way periods.

That level of involvement in operations is what enabled the many Sailors that served aboard O'Brien to improve their professional educations, including Torpedoman's Mate 1st Class (SW) Damon McWhite.

"Some of my most significant operational moments on board O'Brien were conducting various exercises with allied forces. It gave me the opportunity to become familiar with foreign navy operations and tactics," he said.

Over the ship's many years in service, O'Brien has accumulated a long list of successes, among them the prestigious Battle "E" and the Meritorious Unit Commendation. But to Navy residents here in Yokosuka and to many of her crew, she will be remembered most for being a vital part of the FDNF team.

"I really had a good time here in Japan," said Yeoman 2nd Class (SW) Dewaine Smith. "I would definitely come back to serve the FDNF in Japan."

"What I will miss most by not being an FDNF Japan Sailor are the sights, the food - especially the food -and the culture. This is one place I always wanted to go to when I was a kid and I finally made it," said Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class (SW) Travis Plantt.

As emotionally difficult as the last voyage might be for O'Brien, they must still ensure the ship gets safely across the Pacific Ocean to the United States, a journey that is more than 5,000 miles and may take more than two weeks.

However, Lt. Cmdr. John McCracken, O'Brien's executive officer, is confident that the crew has the experience they need to meet this final challenge.

"Serving in the fast-paced and demanding environment of the [U.S.] 7th Fleet creates a special breed of Sailor," he said.

O'Brien is part of Destroyer Squadron 15 and the USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) Strike Group.

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