The first opportunity to become a part of history while still in an EDSRA came with the arrival of the first People’s Liberation Army (Navy) surface action group to visit San Diego in nearly a decade on August 10, 2014. Russell eagerly volunteered to be one of only three host ships, thus ensuring she played a pivotal role in the historic event.
“As stated by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Greenert in his ‘sailing directions,’ the diplomatic function of the Navy is extremely important, and it was something we could do while still unable to get underway last year,” stated Commander Gill McCarthy, Russell’s Executive Officer.
By all accounts the event with China’s Navy was a resounding success. Rear Admiral Patrick J. Lorge, Commander, Navy Region Southwest, the Chinese Ambassador to the United States, and several VIPs attended a welcoming ceremony held August 10. The crews gave reciprocal ship tours, played intramural sports including table tennis, and organized a binational barbeque with such delicacies as octopus and eggplant.
The event captured some of the international learning that would normally happen on a deployment.
“The best part was knowing that you’re part of something that may never happen again,” stated Fire Controlman First Class Richard J. Naber in an interview at the time. “For that hour or two of playing table tennis we were just sailors coming together from far apart lands to have a good time,” he continued.
Within two months of the event with the Chinese, opportunity to flex Russell’s diplomatic muscle arose again- this time with Japan. On October 15, 2014, the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force Ship JS Teruzuki (DD 116) arrived in San Diego on her maiden voyage to the United States. Due to her enthusiasm and can-do spirit, Russell was chosen to host this historic visit.
Teruzuki was visiting to participate in exercises with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group off Southern California, thus strengthening the alliance and fighting capability of both nations. She was the only Japanese ship participating in the event. Although the Teruzuki and Russell crews participated in mutual tours, intramural sports, and a barbeque, by far the most unique aspect of the visit was the visit to the Fort Rosecrans Veterans Cemetery. Commander Takayuki Miyaji, commanding officer of Teruzuki, desired to lay a wreath to show respect for all the sailors laid to rest there.
For some sailors, these visits were their first exposure to other cultures since joining the Navy.
“These experiences don’t come to many people in their whole lives,” stated Hull Technician Third Class Thomas F. Williams in an interview at the time. “It opens ourselves up to a different perspective that can only help to improve understanding.”
Russell’s guns have recently become fully operational- thus marking one more milestone in her rebuilding as she gets ready for deployment mid-summer. On February 11, she fired both Close-in Weapons Systems (CIWS) - fearsome Gatling guns that can fire nearly 100 rounds per second- for the first time in over two years. It took her crew over six months to make both CIWS fully operational again. In that time both guns were completely disassembled and rebuilt.
When asked for lessons learned during that process, Fire Controlman Second Class Joseph R. Wilson stated “Take care of your equipment, and it will take care of you.”
Fellow CIWS technician Fire Controlman Second Class Aaron Turner added “The CIWS community is very tight, and the support we received from technical representatives was incredible.”
The same day Russell successfully tested CIWS, she also fired her main five-inch gun for the first time since before January 2013. The MK 45 five-inch gun fires shells that weigh 50 pounds over ten miles, and can even engage aircraft.
The story of Russell’s reconstruction is one of overcoming adversity to attain success, said Russell Commanding Officer, Cmdr. James Harney.
“Although the situation did not appear ideal to begin with,” stated Cmdr. James Harney, Commanding Officer of Russell, “by focusing on what we could do instead of what we couldn’t we were able to rack up successes throughout the drydock period, and continuing today.”
Russell is assigned as part of Destroyer Squadron One. She is currently in the basic training phase as she prepares to deploy mid-summer 2015.