SAN DIEGO - Guided-missile frigate USS Thach (FFG 43) returned to her homeport of San Diego, Calif., Sept. 16, after six months in Central and South America for the Southern Seas 2011 deployment.
Thach Sailors participated in three major multinational exercises, made port visits to seven countries and worked first-hand with international sailors and communities throughout the deployment.
"+++ is significantly different from Thach's last two deployments," said Cmdr. Jeff Scudder, Thach's commanding officer. "For the crew, it was a welcome chance to increase friendships with our fellow mariners from the navies of the Western Hemisphere - a rare opportunity we were all excited to have."
As part of the Southern Seas deployment, Thach participated in the Atlantic and Pacific phases of UNITAS 52 and PANAMAX 2011. Each of the exercises provided Sailors the opportunity to work and train side-by-side with sailors of the Latin American navies and build relationships. The relationships that develop from this exercise helped foster cooperation and understanding between participating countries.
"The exercises enhanced and demonstrated the Navy's commitment to addressing regional challenges that require cooperative action with the nations of the Americas," said Scudder. "Through emphasizing interoperability and cooperative exercises, Thach positively contributed to global partnerships."
Ashore, Sailors experienced the cultural diversity and rich heritage found in Central and South America during the many port calls in the countries of Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Peru, Panama and El Salvador. In each country, Sailors participated in local ceremonies, military-to-military subject matter expert exchanges and sporting events.
"It's important for the Navy to conduct military-to-military engagements with our Central and South American partners to improve interoperability and share tactics, techniques and procedures with respect to maritime security operations," said Lt. Cmdr. Ronnie Mangsat, Thach's executive officer. "We proved that different cultures can find commonality in the ways we operate and that's the essence of interoperability - the ability to find a common ground on which we can lay the foundation for continued and future operations."
Sailors volunteered in several community relations projects, such as painting and repairing local schools, orphanages, churches and parks. Thach was also responsible for transporting and delivering stuffed animals donated though Loving Hugs and pallets of medical and hygiene supplies donated by Project Handclasp.
"Our Sailors showed phenomenal performance and were true ambassadors of the U.S. during the COMRELs, donation deliveries and events," said Chief Logistics Specialist Joshua Gabriel, Thach's command senior chief. "One of our goals was to build strong relationships and I believe the Sailors did exactly that."
Thach transited the Panama Canal, navigated the Strait of Magellan and inland waterways of Chile, and made 18 port visits.
"This deployment has been a unique and rewarding experience for the entire crew," said Scudder. "The bonds we forged with our brother mariners from our partner navies afforded us the chance to get to know each other and learn from each other. It built camaraderie and friendships that will last a lifetime. The chance to visit different countries and see the world broadened each of our own horizons with the exposure of different cultures."
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet (COMUSNAVSO/C4F) supports U.S. Southern Command joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.