From Naval Surface Force, Atlantic
After being forward deployed to Japan for nearly 10 years, USS Lassen (DDG 82) arrived in her new homeport of Mayport, June 6.
A decade ago, Lassen participated in her first 7th Fleet Annual Exercise, in 2006; she completed her most recent deployment there late last year. Upon completion of her decade-long assignment with the Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF), the crew and their ship was lauded by Capt. Christopher J. Sweeney, commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15.
"Her ability to support the mission improved our relationships with key allies and became an integral part of the DESRON's presence in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region," Sweeney said. "Lassen's performance in the 7th Fleet was beyond expectations."
"It was a bitter-sweet moment leaving Yokosuka after being forward deployed there for the past 10 years," said Cmdr. Robert Francis, Lassen's commanding officer. "It was an honor to serve as part of the Forward Deployed Naval Forces during such a pivotal time in our history."
The guided-missile destroyer's arrival in Florida completed a 5-month homeport shift which saw her transit the U.S. 7th, 3rd, and 4th Fleet areas of responsibility. In doing so, the Lassen crew traveled more than 27,000 nautical miles in support of theater security operations and responded to emergency and distress calls during international search and rescue events.
En route to Mayport, the ship made port visits to Saipan, Pearl Harbor, San Diego, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Colombia, Cuba, Jamaica, and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The crew participated in numerous Operation Handclasp community relations projects, establishing or enhancing friendships along the way. They proved to be true ambassadors by consistently displaying professionalism while on liberty or working side-by-side with their hosts.
They also supported joint, counter-illicit trafficking interdiction in both the 3rd and 4th Fleets under "Operation Martillo," Spanish for "hammer." The endeavor is a U.S., European and Western Hemisphere partner-nation effort launched in January 2012 targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. U.S. military participation in Operation Martillo is led by Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-South), in support of U.S. Southern Command.
In just three months of operations not routinely supported by an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, Lassen and the embarked U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) law enforcement detachment (LEDET) leveraged the capabilities of partner nations and JIATF-South to complete 18 interdictions, confiscating a total of 11,333kg cocaine and 66 pounds of marijuana. The estimated street value of the seizures is approximately $226 million. Lassen was also credited with detaining 49 suspected smugglers.
"The counter-illicit trafficking mission was new to all of us, but our collaboration with JIATF-S, USCG District 11, and all the other U.S. Coast Guard, allied and partner nation assets proved critical to our success," said Francis. "It validated the true capability of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in executing the counter illicit trafficking mission."
Lassen was commissioned in 2001 in Tampa, Fla., and is named in honor of the late Cmdr. Clyde Everett Lassen, a Fort Myers, Florida native and UH-2 Sea Sprite helicopter search and rescue pilot who served in the Vietnam War. Lassen was the first naval aviator to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic efforts to rescue two aviators shot down behind enemy lines in North Vietnam, June 19, 1968.
Being homeported in Florida also allows the crew to easily reconnect with the family of the ship's namesake. Nieces, nephews, and other extended family members of Cmdr. Lassen were on the pier to greet the ship and welcome the Sailors and their families to their new homeport.