(Via Ho’okele News)
Story and photos by MC3 Johans Chavarro
Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Hawaii
The U.S. Middle Pacific Naval Fleet received two new additions as the guided-missile destroyers USS Preble (DDG 88) and USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) arrived to their new homeport of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) Aug. 14 and 15 from San Diego.
The move was orchestrated to provide updated advanced Aegis capabilities to Commander, Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific (COMNAVSURFGRU MIDPAC) in an effort to maintain the most robust and capable force possible.
Rear Adm. Rick Williams, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, welcomed both ships to Hawaii, noting the advanced capabilities they bring to the Middle Pacific Fleet.
“It is a privilege to welcome USS John Paul Jones and USS Preble to Hawaii,” said Williams. “I know you will bring advanced capabilities in radar and weapon systems, including Aegis ballistic missile defense and Navy Integrated Fires, and I’m grateful you’re joining our team.”
USS Preble arrived at JBPHH as a replacement for the guided-missile frigate Reuben James (FFG 57), which was decommissioned July 18, 2013, and will serve as a MIDPAC surface combatant to reinforce maritime operations in the region.
Cmdr. Robert T. Bryans, commanding officer of USS Preble, said he looked forward to bringing USS Preble’s advanced capabilities to the region and being a part of the MIDPAC team.
“The MIDPAC team has a great reputation,” said Bryans. “The ships that are homeported here have the latest baselines, the most technological sophisticated equipment and weapons systems. This really is the tip of the spear.”
As a new addition to MIDPAC, Sonar Technician Surface 2nd Class Chan Wakefield said the crew aboard USS Preble aims to answer the operational demands of the region, as well as take advantage of the rare opportunity of being home-ported in Hawaii.
“As a crew we’re really just aiming to uphold the operations tempo out here, but also bring the spirit we had in San Diego and infuse that with some of that island spirit,” said Wakefield. “Few people get to experience Hawaii as a port visit, so getting to have it as a homeport has everyone excited.”
Currently the most technologically advanced ship within the Ballistics Missile Defense (BMD) program, USS John Paul Jones will operate as a rotational BMD deployer, and testing ship, as part of a long-range U.S. commitment to the security and stability of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
The move also allowed the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) to proceed to San Diego for a scheduled, extended docking ship repair availability (EDSRA).
Cmdr. Andrew Thomson, commanding officer of USS John Paul Jones, said his crew has proven that they are ready to assume the role as the Navy’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense test ship. In the coming years, the ship is expected to test newer and more advanced systems that will be used to defend the nation and allied forces overseas, Thomson said.
Sailors stationed aboard USS John Paul Jones welcomed the challenge and responsibility, along with the opportunity to settle down family members and experience the Hawaiian scenery.
“It was a long process with the move and with families, so to finally be here is a huge relief,” Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Steven Zupko. “I’ve never seen Hawaii and before the Navy I had never even seen the ocean. It’s just beautiful. I never thought I’d be able to see anything like this.”
USS Lake Erie is scheduled to replace USS John Paul Jones as a rotational BMD deployer out of San Diego once the EDSRA is complete.
COMNAVSURFGRU MIDPAC is a U.S. Navy command responsible for the maintenance and training of the surface ships homeported in JBPHH.
In May 2008, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 31 assumed duties as immediate superior in command for all Pearl Harbor-based destroyers and frigates under an operational alignment to increase force presence and surge capacity in the Western Pacific under COMNAVSURFGRU MIDPAC.