Pearl Harbor -- The guided-missile destroyer USS O’Kane (DDG 77) returned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Dec. 5, after completing a nine-month deployment to the U.S. 7th and 5th Fleet areas of responsibility.
O’Kane faced numerous demands throughout the deployment and excelled, earning many accolades. The “Desert Hawks” awarded O’Kane as the “Best in the Gulf” for their efficiency and excellent communication skills during flight quarters. After 140 tomahawk missile exercises, O’Kane was named “Top Tomahawk Land Attack Missile Shooter.”
Additionally, O’Kane completed its Surface Ship Radiated Noise Measurement in route to C5F; the first ship in nearly 30 years to complete this difficult assessment off the coast of Guam (NUWC Det. San Diego). O’Kane completed 32 Replenishments at Sea (RAS), receiving more than 5 million gallons of fuel and 1082 pal-lets of supplies.
USS George H. W. Bush called on O’Kane frequently to be the plane guard and horizon reference unit for the carrier’s air operations. During the demanding deployment, the crew responded to a distress call for Motor Vessel Perun who suffered an engine room fire. O’Kane also took part in five live ballistic missile tracking events and two mine hunting exercises.
While deployed, O’Kane hosted three phases of Naval Academy Midshipmen and nine friends and family members during a Tiger Cruise. Each group had the opportunity to experience a Replenishment at Sea (RAS), small boat operations, and a 5 inch and close-in weapons system (CIWS) gunshoot. The guests from the Tiger Cruise joined the ship in Guam and transited home with the crew.
O’Kane hosted many VIPs from Task Forces, Destroyer Squadrons, and Carrier Strike Groups. The most notable event was hosting a reception in Goa, India, attended by dignitaries from the Indian Navy, including Goa Naval Area Commander, Rear Adm. Balvinder Parhar.
During the transit home, O’Kane conducted a change of command at sea where Cmdr. Gina McCaine relieved Cmdr. James Juster as commanding officer.
“The crew performed exceptionally while overseas. O’Kane was assigned to many complex operations, often simultaneously. The opportunities we had as an independently deployed destroyer were truly unique,” McCaine said.
While transiting across the Pacific, O’Kane visited 11 ports, including stops in India, Thailand, Singapore, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. While in port, several sailors represented the Navy in community relation projects. These projects included a basketball game at the Don Bosco All Boys School, a cricket match with members of the Indian Navy, and a game of soccer in Goa, India.
In Bahrain, sailors interacted with physically disabled adults who were members of Bahrain Mobility Institute (BMI) by playing card games. Additionally, they helped plant a garden and move cinder blocks for BMI renovations. In Jebel Ali, O’Kane sailors helped inventory and organize 3,500 workbooks for 900 K-12 age students in preparation for the upcoming school year. The crew also enjoyed walking and playing with animals in Guam for Guam Animals in Need (GAIN).
“My favorite quote to get me through this deployment is ‘Patience and fortitude conquer all things’,” stated DESRON 31′s Junior Sailor of the Quarter and MIDPAC’s Junior Sailor of the Quarter, IT1(SW/IDW) Ruddana Skipper.
During the nine-month deployment, Sailors accomplished many personal and professional goals. O’Kane qualified 125 Sailors as Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialists and 10 officers as Surface Warfare Officers. 32 Sailors made the choice to reenlist during deployment for a combined total of 118 years and $76,424.37 in Selective Reenlistment Bonus (SRB). Additionally, more than 70 Sailors were promoted to the next pay grade. While competing in the “Biggest Loser” fitness challenge onboard O’Kane, the two winning Sailors lost more than 40 pounds each. BM1 (SW) Gabriel Reyes was selected as MIDPAC Senior Sailor of the Quarter and IT1 (SW/IDW) Ruddana Skipper was selected as DESRON 31′s Junior Sailor of the Quarter and MIDPAC’s Junior Sailor of the Quarter.
“Nine months away from home is a tall order for anyone, but the crew of O’Kane bonded together and looked out for each other just as any family would do. Everyone participated and worked together to achieve every mission assigned to O’Kane,” said Cmdr. Colby Sherwood, O’Kane’s executive officer.
USS O’Kane (DDG 77) is the U.S. Navy’s 27th Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer commissioned on Oct. 23, 1999. It is named after Rear Adm. Richard O’Kane, a submarine commander in World War II who received the Medal of Honor for his service aboard USS Tang (SS-306). O’Kane directly participated in more successful attacks on shipping than any other submarine officer during the war.