- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 19, 2021

The USS John S. McCain is heading to its new homeport in Washington state after having spent nearly a quarter century operating out of Japan, where it was often called on to steam past disputed islands claimed by China to assert U.S. freedom of navigation rights.

After 24 years spent forward-deployed to Fleet Activities Yokosuka, the guided-missile destroyer is on its way to Naval Station Everett, located about 30 miles north of Seattle.

The ship was named for three generations of a family with a legendary naval history, including the late Sen. John S. McCain III, who spent more than five years as a POW after he was shot down over Hanoi during the Vietnam War.

In 2017, the destroyer was involved in a collision with a merchant ship in the heavily congested South China Sea that resulted in the deaths of 10 sailors. The ship’s commander was fired and later pleaded guilty to a single charge of negligence. He received a punitive letter of reprimand and was fined $6,000.

After extensive repairs, the USS John McCain eventually returned to duty.

During its 24 years as part of the Navy’s forward-deployed forces, the destroyer operated across the region from the Indian Ocean to the Sea of Japan. It supported a variety of joint and multinational operations to strengthen U.S. alliances and partnerships, enhance maritime security and promote regional stability in the Indo-Pacific region, officials said.

“After 24 years of faithful overseas service, we are ready to head back home to America, back to Washington State,” Cmdr. Tin Tran, the skipper of the destroyer, said in a statement. “Our sailors will forever remember the bonds of friendship and hospitality Japan has shown us.”

A 2019 visit to the Yokosuka naval base by then-President Donald Trump — a political opponent of McCain — resulted in a decision by the White House to ask the Navy to keep the destroyer out of sight during the visit. Mr. Trump said the request didn’t come from him but acknowledged it might have come from one of his staffers.

Although focused on the Indo-Pacific region, the USS McCain took part in several surge deployments to the Middle East to support U.S. warfighting efforts in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In March 2011, the USS McCain was part of Operation Tomodachi, the U.S. humanitarian response to Japan following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that resulted in the deaths of more than 15,000 people.

“It’s definitely a changing of the guard with the USS John S. McCain and her crew departing the 7th Fleet after over 24 years in Japan,” Capt. Chase Sargeant, commander of Destroyer Squadron 15, said in a statement. “The contributions of the current and all previous crews in defending peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific cannot be overstated.”

Although the USS McCain‘s new homeport will be in Washington, the ship will be assigned to the 3rdFleet, based in San Diego.

John S. McCain and her sailors have proven time and time again our Navy’s resolve to answer the call in support of our nations and our allies,” Cmdr. Tran said.

• Mike Glenn can be reached at mglenn@washingtontimes.com.

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