July 19 (UPI) -- The USS Stethem, a guided-missile destroyer, arrived at its new home port in San Diego after 14 years operating from Japan in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Arleigh Burke-class ship, which entered the Navy port in the Southern California city Thursday, was first based there when it joined the fleet in 1995 but went to Yokosuka in June 2005.
"Naval Base San Diego is excited to welcome the officers and crew of USS Stethem to the Navy's Finest Installation," Naval Base San Diego Commanding Officer Capt. Mark Nieswiadomy, said in a news release. "Stethem is joining one of the fastest growing fleet concentration areas in the world, and my team and I are standing by to provide first class support to the sailors and families of this fine warship in order to make their transition from 7th Fleet to 3rd Fleet as smooth as possible."
In San Diego, Stethem will undergo maintenance and modernization, including the latest combat system suite of air defense, ballistic missile defense, surface warfare and undersea warfare capabilities.
The ship conducted exercises and visited ports in Australia, Bahrain, China, Indonesia, Singapore, the Republic of Korea and Thailand. It also provided disaster relief, as well as search and rescue missions.
Stethem at one time operated alongside the now decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk.
In 2011, the ship supported Operation Tomodachi for relief to Japanese citizens affected by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. It also helped search for a missing Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35 in April.
USS Stethem returned to the U.S. 3rd Fleet area of operations on June 30.
Crew members are nicknamed "Steelworkers" in honor of the ship's namesake, Steelworker 2nd Class Robert D. Stethem, a Navy diver who was killed by terrorists after the hijacking of Flight TWA 847 in 1985.
"It has been an honor and privilege for Steelworkers and our families to be part of the forward deployed Naval Forces-Japan community for the last 14 years," Cmdr. John Rummel, the destroyer's commanding officer, said it in a Navy news release on July 1 while en route to San Diego. "The opportunity to serve alongside incredible waterfront shipmates and operate with our Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force allies, flexing every mission area in the most challenging operational environment, is truly unmatched."