Arabian Gulf - USS BENFOLD (DDG 65) completed her Fifth Fleet deployment in November. While operating in the Arabian Gulf, BENFOLD conducted exercises that strengthened international partnership, validated maritime defense doctrine, and established standard working procedures with US Joint Forces. Her crew capitalized from the experience to qualify in multiple warfare areas. They also advanced at an astonishing rate. Though plenty of hard work was to be had, that didn’t stop the crew from having fun. Everything from plentiful steel beach picnics, to nightly flight deck workouts, to MWR Game Nights, BENFOLD instilled the ‘work-hard, play-hard’ mentality on her first return to the Gulf since 2010.
After an extended dry dock availability that saw a significant revamp of her engineering plant, DDG65 set sail westward to provide Ballistic Missile Defense in the Fifth Fleet area of responsibility. But BMD was just one point of what BENFOLD had to offer the fleet. On a near daily basis the Strike Team was active in CIC with 1,711 simulated missile launches. They earned the highest proficiency rating in the Gulf and were selected as a three-time Shooter of the Week award recipient. Flight Quarters was something of a routine onboard this FLT IA with over 530 landings by both Navy SH-60s and Army Blackhawks. The world famous Desert Hawk Helicopter Squadron also recognized BENFOLD as ‘Best in Gulf.’
BENFOLD was prevalent in maritime warfare through coordinating and participating in numerous exercises designed to integrate both Joint Forces and GCC Nation cooperation. BENFOLD worked in partnership with Royal Navy H-3 Sea Kings, Army AH-64 Apaches, Air Force F-15 Eagles, Air Force AC-130 Gunships, Air Force E-8 Joint STARS, Navy P-3 Orions, and Navy SH-60 Seahawks. BENFOLD exercised C2 of both surface and air assets against USN and USCG ships playing OPFOR.
CTF 55 twice called upon BENFOLD to exercise the Maritime Infrastructure Protection OPTASK. For the second go around, the Iraqi Navy joined in by acting as picket boat in defense of an oil platform. USS Whirlwind (PC 11) served as the second picket boat for scenarios simulating attack craft targeting oil platforms in the Gulf.
Though BENFOLD was not ‘all work and no play’ during this cruise. “It’s important to me to give the crew ample opportunities to let loose and have some fun,” said CDR Rich LeBron, Commanding Officer of USS BENFOLD. “A challenge to any deployment is to keep the daily routine interesting. I think the crew did an extraordinary job of fostering their innovative ideas and turning them into fun reality. ”
Thanks to the crew’s creativity, BENFOLD held nightly PT sessions on the flight deck. OS3 (SW) Floyd Williams staged BENFOLD’s own event to celebrate her half-way point of deployment. OS1 (SW) Travell Smith hosted the aptly named “Monster Competition” on Halloween where Sailors competed in weight lifting. $7,700 was raised for the Wounded Warrior Project by BENFOLD crewmembers participating in a half-marathon onboard.
Mission success and high crew morale are not all that BENFOLD has to show for her time spent in the area. BENFOLD dominated last cycle’s advancement results by promoting 45% of eligible Sailors; that’s an astounding 24% above the Navy average! “Nothing prepares you for your rate like being operational in Fifth Fleet,” said EN2 (SW) Caleb Enright. “Not only did we train extremely hard to prepare for this deployment, but we continued to do so while in the Gulf and it showed in these results.”
BENFOLD and her crew are eastbound to homeport San Diego, CA where she will receive a Combat Systems modernization upgrade in 2013. LeBron remarked “We look forward to returning to the Gulf after our SRA. BEN will return to Fifth Fleet just as we left it: 100% Ready, 100% of the Time!”
BENFOLD is an Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer, assigned to Destroyer Squadron ONE. She is returning to her homeport of San Diego, CA after a 7 month independent Ballistic Missile Defense deployment to FIFTH and SEVENTH FLEET’s.