Media interested in covering USS Vandegrift's homecoming should contact Naval Surface Forces Public Affairs Office by 4 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 11, at 619-437-3101 and meet at the Naval Base San Diego Pass & Decal no later than 8:15 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 12.
SAN DIEGO -The Navy frigate USS Vandegrift (FFG 48) returns from its final deployment, where it operated in the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command / U.S. 4th Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR) Dec. 12. Upon return the ship will begin to make preparations for decommissioning after 30 years of service.
During this final deployment, the ship played an integral part in the counter-transnational organized crime (C-TOC) mission Operation Martillo (Spanish for "hammer"). Operation Martillo, a joint, combined operation involving the U.S. and 14 European and Western Hemisphere partner-nations, targets illicit trafficking routes in the waters off Central America. Joint Interagency Task Force South leads the international, interagency operation which began in January 2012.
While participating in Operation Martillo, Vandegrift intercepted approximately 19,833 pounds of cocaine and disrupted numerous other illegal drug shipments.
"Vandegrift's contributions were critical to the successes of law enforcement in seizing illicit cargo," said Rear Admiral Stephen Mehling, USCG, Director, JIATF South. "The crew's effort in support of international and interagency Operation Martillo led to the highest disruption rate in over five years and underscored the important role U.S. Navy ships play in the 15-nation coalition. Working together in this operation, we have become increasingly successful at finding, locating, and disrupting illicit maritime cargo shipments before they reach their final destinations."
The ship also participated in three community relations (COMREL) projects in Panama City in which 36 Sailors helped build a workshop for the blind, assist an outreach group in refurbishing their building and spent time with children in the Aid for AIDS community.
"I am extremely proud of this ship and this crew. USS Vandegrift's superior performance and exceptional operational success during this 7 month deployment were nothing short of outstanding." said Cmdr. Kevin Ralston, Vandegrift's commanding officer. The ship's crew, Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 49 Air Detachment Three, and embarked U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments have proven themselves to be a highly effective and mission focused team. This team closed out Vandegrift's operational life in a manner which our ship's namesake and all former crew members would be proud."
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet support Operation Martillo and U.S. Southern Command's joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.
Vandegrift (FFG 48), named for Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift, U.S. Marine Corps, was built at Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle, Wash. and was commissioned Nov. 24, 1984. The ship completed eight years of service in Yokosuka, Japan in support of Forward Deployed Naval Forces, departing Aug. 14, 2006, to make San Diego its new homeport.
Vandegrift helps provide deterrence, promote peace and security, and preserve freedom of the sea and humanitarian/disaster response within 3rd Fleet's 50-million square mile AOR in the Eastern Pacific, as well as supporting the Navy's Maritime Strategy when forward deployed.
Joint, interagency and international relationships strengthen U.S. 3rd Fleet's ability to respond to crises and protect the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners.