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Gonzalez (DDG-66)

1996-

Alfredo Cantu Gonzalez, born on 23 May 1946 at Edinburg, Texas, graduated from Edinburg High School in 1965. His mother, Dolia, a single parent, instilled in Gonzalez a sense of moral strength and character. Family and friends called the young man “Freddy”, and teachers remembered him as a good student and hard worker. Gonzalez played on the school’s football team, overcoming his lack of physical size and strength with determination. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve at San Antonio, Texas, on 3 June 1965, and on 6 July was discharged to enlist in the regular Marine Corps. Gonzalez completed recruit training with the 3rd Recruit Training Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Calif., in September 1965, followed by individual combat training with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Training Regiment, at Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, Calif., the following month. The young Rifleman next reported to Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division (Reinforced).

Promoted to Private First Class on New Year’s Day 1966, he served for a year as a Rifleman/Squad Leader, Company L, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, making Lance Corporal on 1 October 1966 and Corporal on 1 December. Gonzalez then switched coasts and reported to the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, N.C., from February-May 1967. He served as a replacement with the 3rd Replacement Company, Staging Battalion at Camp Pendleton, from May-July 1967, attaining the rank of Sergeant on 1 July, before shipping out to the Vietnam War as a Squad Leader/Platoon Sergeant with the 3rd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division.

Gonzalez displays the rugged determination
Gonzalez displays the rugged determination and confidence that mark his leadership and service in this undated photograph. (Gonzalez (DDG-66) Commissioning Book, Ships History, Naval History & Heritage Command).

The People's Armed Forces of Vietnam (PAVN) and People's Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF) attacked allied troops throughout South Vietnam as the Tet lunar holiday began on 30 and 31 January 1968. Hanoi unleashed offensive on a scale hitherto unseen against five of the six autonomous cities including Saigon and Hué, 36 of the 44 provincial, 64 of the 242 district capitols, and 50 hamlets across the south.

On 31 January 1968, Gonzalez’s Marines served as part of a reaction force and moved forward to relieve their beleaguered comrades fighting the enemy in and around Hué. They rode in trucks in a convoy along Route 1 toward Hué when enemy snipers opened fire on them near the village of Lang Van Lrong. Gonzalez directed his men’s fire as they cleared the area of snipers. The Marines continued and crossed a river south of Hué when they encountered intense fire.

A Marine on top of a tank fell wounded and lay exposed to the shooting, but Gonzalez ran through the hail of fire to assist his comrade. Fragments wounded Gonzalez, but he lifted the Marine and carried him to a covered position for treatment. An enemy machine gun in a bunker on the side of the road raked the area, temporarily halting the Marines’ advance. Gonzalez realized the gravity of the situation and exposed himself to the fire while moving his platoon along the east side of a bordering rice paddy to a dike directly across from the bunker. He then braved the heavy fire and destroyed the bunker with hand grenades.

During fighting on 3 February 1968, Gonzalez was wounded again but refused medical treatment and continued to lead his men. On 4 February enemy fire pinned down some of the Marines in the vicinity of Thua Thien, inflicting heavy casualties with automatic weapons and rocket fire. Gonzalez, utilizing a number of light antitank assault weapons, fearlessly moved from position to position and returned fire, knocking out a rocket emplacement and suppressing enemy fire before falling mortally wounded. Gonzalez received the Medal of Honor and Purple Heart posthumously. He was buried at Hillcrest Memorial Park in Edinburg.

The first U.S. Navy ship named Gonzalez.

(DDG-66: displacement 8,960; length 505'; beam 66'; draft 32'; speed 30+ knots; complement 356; armament 1 5-inch, 2 Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-156 SM-2MR Standards, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets, 8 RGM-84 Harpoons (2 Mk 141 launchers), 2 Mk 15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS), 4 .50 caliber machine guns, and 6 Mk 32 torpedo tubes, aircraft operate (but not embark) 1 Sikorsky SH-60B Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) Mk III Seahawk; class Arleigh Burke)

Gonzalez (DDG-66) was laid down on 11 May 1993 at Pascagoula, Miss., by Ingalls Shipbuilding Division, Litton Industries; launched on 17 June 1994; sponsored by Mrs. Dolia Gonzalez, mother of the late Sgt. Gonzalez; and commissioned on 12 October 1996 at Ingleside, Texas, Cmdr. Frederick D. Allard Jr. in command.

Shield

Dark blue and gold are the colors traditionally associated with the Navy and symbolize sea and excellence. Red is emblematic of valor and sacrifice. The embattled line reflects the Citadel and alludes to a strong defense. The flashes depict speed and the electronic capabilities of the Aegis system, while reflecting Sgt. Gonzalez’s bravery under fire. The reversed blue star represents the Medal of Honor, awarded to Gonzalez for his sacrifice and bravery. The border symbolizes unity and cooperation, while the Aegis shaped shield highlights Gonzalez’s ability to conduct multi-mission warfare with quick decisive action.

Seal

Crest

The eagle is adapted from the Marine Corps Seal and reflects leadership and courage. The two swords, Navy and Marine, are crossed for strength and teamwork and honor both services.

A rainbow arches over Gonzalez
A rainbow arches over Gonzalez as she visits Mombasa, Kenya, 6 July 2005 (Journalist 1st Class Wes Eplen, U.S. Navy Photograph 050706-N-0401E-001, Navy NewsStand)

After sailing to the Atlantic Undersea Testing and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) Operating Area in early November 1996 for submarine tracking and attack scenarios, Gonzalez continued her combat systems qualification and testing while conducting a shakedown cruise through the West Indies, calling at Philipsburg, St. Maarten, from 8-12 November. Gonzalez steamed outbound from St. Maarten on 12 November, when at 0800, she ran aground on a coral reef, severely damaging several blades on both propellers as well as the sonar dome on the underside of her hull. After clearing herself of the reef, Gonzalez limped to Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico where an investigation into the incident, directed by Commander, Destroyer Squadron (ComDesRon) 26, determined the accident "to have been avoidable," placing blame on the commanding officer, officer of the deck, and navigator. Consequently, Cmdr. Daniel P. Holloway relieved Cmdr. Frederick D. Allard Jr. as the commanding officer on 21 November, while the ship lay moored at Roosevelt Roads. A survey of the hull found the damage to be severe enough to necessitate a significant overhaul which could not be accomplished with the limited facilities at Roosevelt Roads. Fleet ocean tug Apache (ATF-172) therefore took Gonzalez under tow to Norfolk, Va., reaching that part on 1 December 1996. During the New Year, Gonzalez was again under tow, this time from Norfolk to Bath Iron Works, Portland, Maine, where she completed nine-months of drydock repair and post-shakedown modernization, from 15 January-October 1997.

The new year found Gonzalez preparing to commence trials and qualifications. On 12 January 1998, Gonzalez steamed from Norfolk to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., commencing a year in which she successfully passed all trials and tests as well as her inter-deployment training cycle. The ship also prepared for her post-delivery tests and trials, which included an underwater inspection of the hull and sonar dome, in order to be certain that the damage sustained from the reef had been satisfactorily remedied. After a port visit to Fort Lauderdale, Gonzalez steamed for the Puerto Rican Operating Area and AUTEC, completing a series of tests including the bearing and range accuracy of her sonar, the destroyer's engineering system, and live firing of her weapons system. She returned to Norfolk on 13 February, having completed the first phase of her basic training cycle.

The second phase involved cruise missile tactical qualification, a logistics management assessment, and engineering certification, which the ship completed off the Virginia capes in early March. She returned to sea once again on 23 March for the third phase of the training cycle. While undergoing this phase, Gonzalez operated with aircraft carrier Enterprise (CVN-65) and her battle group, including the rest of Destroyer Squadron 18, for an over-the-horizon targeting exercise. Gonzalez escaped detection by the rest of the force and, as a result, "sank" guided missile cruiser Gettysburg (CG-64) and destroyer Nicholson (DD-982). She returned to Norfolk on 27 March. From 1-10 April, the ship accomplished her final contract trials and Board of Inspection and Survey (InSurv). She completed the final evaluation problem, marking the end of her basic training period which had been made "more arduous" by the unfinished trials that had to be completed simultaneously as a result of the 12 November 1996 accident.

The ship passed the summer of 1998 undergoing the usual training and briefing cycle in preparation for overseas deployment. Meanwhile, Gonzalez completed work to bring her to the cutting edge of information technology with the installation of Integrated Technology for the Twenty First Century (IT-21), allowing message traffic not classified as Secret to be viewed by the officers and crew at a number of work stations throughout the ship. In addition, the new technology brought email and internet access to the crew, helping them to stay in closer contact with family and friends as well as going a long way to ameliorate the feeling of isolation that so often characterizes life at sea, far from home. As Gonzalez' Command History Report (CHR) observes, "the IT-21 installation was one of the biggest improvements to the officers' and crew's quality of life."

In early July 1998, Gonzalez sailed for the Virginia capes for Exercise Vandal, which included operating with five other guided missile destroyers, returning to Norfolk on 9 July. Gonzalez steamed from Norfolk on 24 July with the other ships of DesRon 18, bound for Puerto Rican waters and operations with Enterprise emphasizing coordinating operations that culminated in the Intermediate Training Assessment, a three day mock war with Enterprise's Battle Group opposed by the ships of DesRon 18, as well as submarines and aircraft. Gonzalez and the rest of her Blue Force cohorts emerged victorious from the simulation on 19 August, returning to Norfolk two days later.

All this training built to the Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) which brought the inter-deployment training cycle to a close. The JTFEX provided Gonzalez the "last opportunity to prepare itself for the 'real world' operations in the Mediterranean and Arabian Sea." The exercise again involved a joint battle scenario, during which she performed escort duties for the Nassau (LHA-4) Amphibious Ready Group, from 18 September-5 October. Gonzalez returned to Norfolk on 6 October to commence her final maintenance availability, which prepared her for the upcoming deployment. She returned to sea briefly on 6 November, escorting Enterprise to sea in company with guided misisle frigate Nicholas (FFG-47).

On the dark and moonless night of 8 November 1998, Enterprise carried out carrier qualifications about 120 miles off the coast of Virginia. Prowler 503, a Grumman EA-6B of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 130, manned by 35-year old Lt. Cmdr. Kurt W. Barich (the pilot), 27-year-old Lt. j.g. Brendan J. Duffy, 26-year-old Lt. j.g. Charles E. Woodward, and 26-year-old Lt. j.g. Meredith C. Loughran, crashed while landing on board Enterprise. Nearly 40 aircraft crowded the flight deck, including Viking 706, a Lockheed S-3B (BuNo. 159733), of Sea Control Squadron (VS) 22 crewed by 44-year-old Cmdr. James G. Wallace (the pilot) and Lt. j.g. Kirk A. Schneringer. Wallace ejected into the water and a helo rescued him about a half hour later. Schneringer’s parachute entangled the copilot as he drifted into the island’s antennae, and he dangled helplessly until freed by sailors. Crewmembers plied fire extinguishing agent but the blaze flared with multiple explosions and required seven minutes to extinguish. The firefighters limited damage to adjacent aircraft to those already ablaze and no flight deck handlers received injuries. Barich, Duffy, Woodward, and Loughran died, and Wallace and Schneringer were evacuated to the Naval Medical Center at Portsmouth, Va., the following day. Sailors subsequently jettisoned the destroyed Viking but failed to recover the Prowler. Gonzalez aided in the two day search and rescue effort to locate the four missing airmen. As Enterprise and her battle group continued across the Atlantic, Gonzalez detached for a three day port visit to Baltimore, Md., before returning to Norfolk to onload ammunition.

After celebrating the Christmas holiday at Norfolk, Gonzalez sailed for the Mediterranean on 28 December 1998, commencing her first overseas deployment as part of Task Force (TF) 99-1. The TF consisted Enterprise's Battle Group and Nassau's Amphibious Ready Group, and primarly monitored the situation in former Yugoslavia, and enforced UN sanctions on Iraq. After transiting the "choppy, savage" Atlantic, Gonzalez arrived at Gibralter for a brief port visit before entering the Mediterranean. At Gibraltar, the crew enjoyed the exotic cuisine that characterizes that part of the world in which a variety of cultures converge; some of the sailors "enjoyed spicy food at Casapepe's," while others "relished a corned-beef sandwich washed down with a cold stein of hard cider at the Angry Friar." The crew, however, could not ignore their American palate. As Gonzalez pulled into Naples, the crew rejoiced at the thought of American food..."the NEX, commissary, Wendy's, Subway...fast food finally!!"

In March, Enterprise continued into the Arabian Gulf while Gonzalez steamed into the Adriatic Sea for Operation Allied Force, a NATO operation to defend Kosovar Albanians against the aggression of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. The alliance launched a series of airstrikes and missile attacks against Serbian military infrastructure, Gonzalez firing 43 BGM-109 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs). The strikes concluded in June as Milosevic agreed to pull his troops out of Kosovo. Gonzalez continued operating in the Mediterranean in early June, calling at Haifa, Israel; Cannes, France; and Malaga, Spain, before returning to Norfolk on 25 June. On the last day of Gonzalez' maiden deployment, the crew brimmed with anticipation of returning home, and her deck log stated, "reveille never sounded so good, with only a few hours away from home the crew was exploding with excitement."

Following a leave and upkeep period, Gonzalez, began a long series of inspections and training evolutions at sea. Occasional highlights broke the routine, such as the "fierce January weather" encountered while off the Virginia Capes in early 2000. The storm tested the stomachs of even the most experienced blue jacket as a "nasty Nor'easter" tossed the destroyer about. Another break occured in March when Gonzalez steamed south to Savannah, Ga., during St. Patrick's Day celebrations.Gonzalez sailed in early April 2000 in company with other ships of DesRon 18 to participate in NATO Exercise Linked Seas off the coast of Portugal. After a ten day Atlantic transit, Gonzalez arrived off Portsmouth, U.K., on 19 April, from whence many of her crewmembers embarked on a trip to London. Business resumed on 1 May for the NATO exercise, involving naval forces from over 30 NATO and Partnership for Peace nations. Over the course of operations the "tempo never waned," as scenarios ranging from undersea warfare to air defense developed in complexity and force size, culminating in a full-scale battle scenario involving more than 80 ships. The exercise concluded on 15 May, and Gonzalez returned to Norfolk with the other ships of DesRon 18.

After a month in port punctuated with a brief cruise off the Virginia capes, Gonzalez departed Norfolk in company with guided missile destroyer Stout (DDG-55) on 5 July, bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the duo arrived two days later. The crew enjoyed four days in "the beautiful Canadian port city" before departing on 11 July. Gonzalez joined Enterprise and her consorts on 16 September for a group sail, during which the destroyer's AEGIS weapons system shot down a supersonic test target with a RIM-156 SM-2MR Standard surface-to-air missile. Gonzalez returned to port on 29 September. On 16 October, she rendered her services as part of the opposing force for aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) during a JTFEx. She returned to Norfolk on 26 October, where she remained until 13 November, when she met Enterprise and her battle group for another group sail. Gonzalez returned to Norfolk four days later, fully expecting to remain there for the holiday season. These hopes did not come to pass. On 7 December, she was ordered to steam to the Puerto Rican Operating Area for naval surface fire support qualifications. She returned to Norfolk on 15 December and commenced a holiday stand down. Gonzalez spent early 2001 continuing to make preparations for deployment and to bring the readiness of both ship and crew up to its highest possible level, accomplishing a pair of Composite Unit Training Exercises (CompTUExes) in January and February. In March, she participated in a JTFEx before operating with the rest of DesRon 18 in further training exercises.

Gonzalez deployed from Norfolk with DesRon 18 and Enterprise on 25 April 2001, bound for the Mediterranean Sea. Enroute, the squadron participated in a number of exercises and drills intended to hone the ships' skill in undersea warfare. Soon after transiting the Atlantic, Gonzalez detached from this force and rendezvoused with six other NATO ships, each from a different foreign navy, to comprise Surface Naval Forces Mediterranean (SNFM). The force called at Valencia, Spain, on 9 May and conducted a number of drills while enroute to Toulon, France, arriving on 16 May. The SNFM sailed from Toulon on 22 May, anticipating Exercises Trident D'Or (25 May-1 June) and Cooperative Partner (10-22 June). The ship tested and developed skills in divisional tactics, gunnery, anti-submarine warfare, air defense, and communications while operating with British, Germans, Greeks, Italians, Spaniards, and Turks. Some American crews swapped ships and duties with their counterparts from those nations, promoting "cultural exchange" and familiarity with "the daily routine of their European counterparts." In July, the SNFM carried out a voyage to the Eastern Mediterranean, the Black Sea, and the Aegean Sea, carrying out various exercises which "offered sailors a chance to enhance diplomatic ties...but also added to the burgeoning relationships that were being formed with fellow SNFM sailors." The end of July marked the halfway point of the deployment and the ships of the force dispersed for independent steaming exercises. Thenceforth, Gonzalez steamed throughout the Mediterranean making port visits at Trieste and Gaeta, Italy, Marseilles, France, and Malaga, Spain. She rejoined the SNFM on 3 September, although new ships had relieved the ones with which Gonzalez had operated earlier in the deployment.

While moored at Plymouth, England, on 11 September, Gonzalez made an emergency sortie in response to the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. German destroyer Lűtjens (D.185) displayed some measure of the camraderie that developed between the NATO when she steamed past Gonzalez and guided missile destroyer Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81), raising the American flag to half-mast and displaying a banner declaring, "We Stand By You." After the 11 September attacks, Gonzalez stepped up her operational tempo, conducting exercises that would prepare her to respond to a broad range of contingencies. She joined up with Stout and destroyers Nicholson (DD-982) and Thorn (DD-988) of DesRon 18 on 5 October and following a brief stop at Rota, Spain, commenced the transatlantic voyage. She returned to Norfolk on 25 October and began a period of leave and upkeep.

Before year's end, Gonzalez sailed once more, this time on a group sail with DesRon 18 off the Virginia capes. From 4-7 December 2001, the squadron conducted divisional tactics and other group exercises before returning to Norfolk to celebrate the holiday season. In early 2002, Gonzalez once again commenced the cycle of interdeployment exercises that would culminate in her next deployment. From 8-11 January 2002, she executed antisubmarine exercises off the coast of Rhode Island and participated in JTFEx 02-1 off the Virginia capes in February. On 15 February, Gonzalez returned to Norfolk for a period of intensive maintenance, inlcuding installations of upgrades to her combat systems, such as the Advanced Tomahawk Weapons Control System. In March, Gonzalez commenced a period of restricted maintenance availablity while her crew went to work on a comprehensive industrial package. The destroyer spent June preparing for upcoming assessments and certification of her new combat system upgrade, passing this certification the following month, after which the crew shifted focus toward preparing for the ships InSurv inspection. Refresher training while enroute to the Bahamas, from 26-29 August, "honed watchstanders' warfighting and damage control skills." Preparation for InSurv continued through September. Gonzalez completed the assessment from 7-11 October off the Virginia capes, after which she steamed to Mayport, Fla., to continue refresher training.

Gonzalez sailed in company with guided misisle destroyer Cole (DDG-67) and Thorn as a surface strike group at the end of November 2003, arriving in the Mediterranean in mid-December. From 19-22 April 2004, Gonzalez participated in multilateral maritime interdiction training Exercise Clever Sentinel 04 with the Dutch, French, Italian, and Spanish fleets, as well as Military Sealift Command-manned container ship Eugene A. Obregon (T-AK 3006) and a Lockheed P-3C Orion of Patrol Squadron (VP) 26 flying from Sigonella, Sicily. The exercise comprised part of President George W. Bush's Proliferation Security Initiative, under which participating nations could disrupt illegal trade in weapons of mass destruction by searching ships and aircraft suspected of carrying such weapons. Gonzalez returned to Norfolk on 28 May.

Gonzalez commenced the Navy's second experimental Sea Swap, and the first such such program to occur in the Atlantic Fleet, from October 2004-March 2005. The swap was planned for three, six month phases during which Gonzalez remained on station for 18 continuous months and was manned by three different crews, first from guided missile destroyers Laboon (DDG-58) and Stout, and then the original complement from Gonzalez. Capt. Pat Allen, Deputy Chief of Staff for Commander, Naval Forces Atlantic, explained that the Navy chose Gonzalez because she was equipped with "the largest set of command and control capabilities in support of the expeditionary strike group that it's going to deploy with." Under the Sea Swap program, a ship can remain at sea for up to 24 months while crews from similar types of ships deploy aboard for six month periods, thereby maximizing on-station time and minimizing extensive cruising to and from the United States. Laboon's crew boarded Gonzalez on 22 October, to complete final pre-deployment certifications and to get acclimated to the new ship, remaining on board through the close of the year. In the new year, Laboon's crew (now designated DDG Crew Lima) continued to ready Gonzalez for the upcoming deployment. She steamed from Norfolk on 10 January 2005 with amphibious assault ship Kearsarge (LHD-3) for an expeditionary strike group exercise through 19 January off Cherry Point, N.C.

Gonzalez departed Norfolk on 25 March 2005, bound for the Mediterranean in concert with Kearsarge and 18 continuous months at sea. Before reaching Gibralter, she participated in Exercise Barbary Thunder with ships of the Royal Moroccan Navy. This exercise honed the crew's skill in formation maneuvering, search and rescue, and over-the-horizon targeting. Thence, she sailed east in the Mediterranean, commencing Exercise Caya Green with the Israelis. This exercise focused on antisubmarine warfare with Gonzalez assuming tactical command. At the conclusion of this exercise, Gonzalez set course for the Arabian Gulf, passing through the Suez Canal on 22 April and inchopping to the Fifth Fleet to support coalition operations as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the ongoing Global War on Terrorism.

Enroute on 10 May, Gonzalez aided a Pakistani fishing dhow, whose disabled engine had left her adrift in the Gulf of Oman and reliant on a makeshift bedsheet as her motive power. The destroyer evacuated the crew and took the boat in tow, steaming for Pakistani coastal waters, where the Americans handed the dhow over to Pakistani frigate Tariq. Off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Gonzalez participated in Exercise Iron Siren 2005 with the British and UAE, from 21-24 May. The exercise concentrated on mastery of small boat attack defense (a tactic increasingly favored by terrorists), oil platform defense, gunnery exercise coordination, and boarding/search and seizure operations. In June, Gonzalez maintained a steady presence off the coast of the Arabian Peninsula while carrying out a number of Maritime Interception Operations (MIOs), designed to deny terrorists the use of international waters. In these operations, the crew's training which had been "conducted months prior to arrival in the operational area was put to use immediately."

A different scenario developed on 6 June 2005, when Gonzalez received a distress call from motor vessel Tigris when pirates attacked her off the Somali coast. The destroyer set course for the troubled vessel, steaming at full speed. She arrived on the scene and fired .50 caliber machine gun warning shots, using her search lights and flares to illuminate the pirates, who hastily fled. On 6 July, Gonzalez called at Mombasa, Kenya, for a two day port visit. The visit proved a diplomatic success, Mombasa's mayor acknowledging the favorable "signal [the Gonzalez visit] sends to us as a country." Gonzalez then continued MIOs through September. On 18 September she arrived at Jebel Ali, UAE, where Crew Lima departed in order to make room for a new crew, originally from Stout, as part of the second phase of the Sea Swap program.

Stout's crew, designated Crew Sierra, quickly and smoothly assumed responsibility for Gonzalez. On 23 September 2005, with the Sea Swap complete, Gonzalez joined Expeditionary Strike Group 1, consisting of amphibious assault ship Tarawa (LHA-1), amphibious transport dock Cleveland (LPD-7), dock landing ship Pearl Harbor (LSD-52), guided missile cruiser Chosin (CG-65), guided missile frigate Ingraham (FFG-61), and attack submarine Santa Fe (SSN-763). While steaming off the coast of Egypt, the force participated in Exercise Bright Star on 23 and 29 September, along with Egyptian, Italian, and Pakistani ships. The exercise focused on Maritime Security Operations (MSOs), the very same duties Gonzalez had been experiencing during the previous six months, albeit with a different crew. The task, however, became more international in scope as the Americans worked side by side with the Pakistanis (using hand signals for communication) to successfully carry out the visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) operations. Bright Star concluded operations in the Mediterranean and the group steamed southward through the Suez Canal on 1 October.

Throughout October and November, Gonzalez carried out MIOs in the Gulf of Aden, Horn of Africa, Arabian Sea, and Gulf of Oman. She also conducted escort duties for Tarawa, Cleveland, and Pearl Harbor in the Arabian Gulf as the trio disembarked the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) for Operation Iraqi Freedom. November found Gonzalez cruising in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa bound for the Seychelles Islands. Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) Mobile Unit 8 (Det. 4) preceded her, sweeping the port for possible mines. On 5 November, pirates armed with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and AK-47s attacked cruise ship Seabourn Spirit, carrying 312 passengers and crew, while she steamed off the coast of Somalia. The ship suffered minor damage and the EOD team, already in the area for Gonzalez, boarded the cruise ship to investigate an unexploded RPG fragment. Through the end of the year Gonzalez continued her MSOs/MIOs , operating at times with the Dutch-led Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, the U.S.-led CTF 152, and the British-led TF 58. On 12 January 2006, Tarawa departed the Fifth Fleet enroute to her home port of San Diego, Calif. Gonzalez again remained behind in anticipation of the third phase of the Sea Swap program. She steamed for Manama, Bahrain, to receive her third crew while forward deployed in the Middle East.

Guided missile cruiser Cape St. George (CG-71) and Gonzalez conducted maritime security operations as part of Combined Task Force 150, Commodore Hank Ort, RNN, in command, in international waters about 25 nautical miles off the central eastern Somali coast when they spotted a suspected vessel towing two smaller skiffs, bearing west toward that coast, at 0540 on 18 March 2006. Gonzalez dispatched her boarding team in rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) to investigate, but the boarders observed that the suspected pirates brandished what appeared to be RPG launchers. The pirates opened fire and Cape St. George and Gonzalez returned the shooting with small arms fire, In the midst of the action, machine gun fire from Gonzalez ignited a 55-gallon fuel drum aboard the larger boat, racking the ship with explosions and sending billowing black smoke high into the air, subsequently sinking the vessel. One pirate died and five sustained wounds. The Americans did not suffer any casualties, and the boarders took 12 pirates, including the five wounded men, into custody, together with an RPG launcher and automatic weapons. A Dutch medical team from replenishment ship Amsterdam (A.836) assisted the Americans in providing medical attention to the wounded men, two of whom were afterward transferred to amphibious assault ship Peleliu (LHA-5) for additional treatment. The U.S., working through the International Committee of the Red Cross, later repatriated ten of the pirates. During this deployment, Gonzalez also assisted six Iranian mariners who drifted in their disabled boat for ten days in the Arabian Gulf, providing them food and water for three days, which enabled them to make landfall.

In early April 2006, Gonzalez rendezvoused with a new expedtionary strike group, ESG 3, centered around amphibious assault ship Peleliu (LHA-5), and consisting of dock landing ship Germantown (LSD-42), amphibious transport dock Ogden (LPD-5), guided missile cruiser Port Royal (CG-73), and guided missile frigate Reuben James (FFG-57). ESG 3 embarked the 11th MEU in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Gonzalez continued MIOs through the spring, maintaining freedom of the seas and monitoring the critical choke points of the Fifth Fleet. The group wrapped up its deployment on 9 July, and steamed easterly courses for Pearl Harbor and San Diego. Gonzalez' forward deployment was also slated to end, and so she steamed west through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean, bound for Norfolk following 17 consecutive months at sea. This, the Navy's second experimental Sea Swap, turned out to be more successful than the first, with high crew morale and efficient crew swapping among Gonzalez and her sisters Laboon and Stout. Nevertheless, the program proved to be too complex to be effective on the Navy's Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class guided missile destroyers, but may still hold future promise for smaller ships with crew complements of fewer than 100.

Hezbollah terrorists attacked Israeli settlements with rockets in 2006, and the Israelis thus began Operation Change of Direction: to drive the terrorists from Israel’s northern borders. On 16 July 2006, amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima (LHD-7), amphibious transport dock Nashville (LPD-13), and dock landing ship Whidbey Island (LSD-41), with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked, received orders to come about from the Red Sea and operate as part of Task Force (TF) 59 for what expanded into Operation Strengthen Hope -the evacuation of Americans from Lebanon. Gonzalez escorted seven of the ships that evacuated people from Lebanon during their voyages, including cruise ship Orient Queen, which the U.S. contracted because she could accommodate hundreds of passengers.

Gonzalez steams toward her air defense station
Gonzalez steams toward her air defense station during the tense operations, 18 July 2006. (Unattributed U.S. Navy Photograph 060717-N-0780F-004, Navy NewsStand)
Gonzalez
A picture taken the same day from astern captures the ship’s graceful lines, and firepower. (Unattributed U.S. Navy Photograph 060717-N-0780F-001, Navy NewsStand)

On 23 August, European Command directed Joint Task Force Lebanon to take over the mission performed by TF 59, and by USAF Lockheed MC-130P Combat Shadows and Sikorsky MH-53M Pave Lows, and USA Boeing Vertol CH-47 Chinooks. Vice Adm. John D. Stufflebeem broke his flag in command of the force from command ship Mount Whitney (LCC-20). Nashville evacuated people from the fighting, including Chef Anthony Bourdain and his crew from the show No Reservations. Fans dubbed the ensuing clip “The Shwarma and Shrapnel Episode” (Shwarma is a sandwich-like wrap of Middle Eastern origin). Amphibious assault ship Wasp (LHD-1), with Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14 Detachment 1 embarked, began a surge deployment to the area from Norfolk, Va., on 25 August. Additional ships that took part included Trenton (LPD-14). The force evacuated nearly 15,000 Americans, and provided humanitarian assistance to victims of the fighting.

Gonzalez, Cmdr. Brian P. Fort in command, rendered assistance to Reina del Sol, a 38-foot sailing vessel manned by a French couple en route to the Azores Islands, several hundred miles off the east coast of the United States on 5 November 2008. The sailboat experienced engine problems and suffered a steering casualty that affected both her centerboard and rudder on 3 November, and she drifted for two days. Fleet Forces Command received the sailboat’s distress signal, and directed the destroyer to the area, which dispatched a team in a RHIB. Their ordeal exhausted the French mariners and the RHIB team provided them food, and took Reina del Sol in tow until Coast Guard medium endurance cutter Spencer (WMEC-905) reached the scene and the RHIB sailors passed their tow to Spencer, which took the sailboat to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Meanwhile, double-masted sailboat Gypsy Dane encountered mechanical problems while sailing from New York to Charleston, S.C., and drifted for four days. Gonzalez came about and rendezvoused with Gypsy Dane, both vessels battling ten-foot seas. Gonzalez sent a boat officer, coxswain, two search and rescue swimmers, a machinist’s mate, two enginemen, and a machinery repairman in a RHIB through the heavy swells to the sailboat. The swimmers discovered that a line had wrapped around the rudder, disabling Gypsy Dane’s steering. The destroyer’s sailors also repaired several other mechanical problems and Coast Guard medium endurance cutter Seneca (WMEC-906) arrived, checked Gypsy Dane for safety issues, and released her to continue the voyage to Charleston. In October 2012, Gonzalez emergency sortied from Norfolk to avoid Hurricane Sandy.

Home Port Assignments:

Norfolk, Va.

Squadron Assignments:

DesRon 20, 12 October 1996

DesRon 18, 1 February 1998

Commanding Officers:

Cmdr. Frederick D. Allard Jr., 13 September 1996

Cmdr. Daniel P. Holloway, 21 November 1996

Cmdr. Joseph W. Murphy, 10 July 1998

Cmdr. Patrick E. O'Rourke, 14 January 2000

Cmdr. Andrew A. King, 22 May 2001

Cmdr. Karl A. Van Deusen, 13 December 2002

Cmdr. Jeffrey T. Griffin, 22 October 2004

Cmdr. Jack Noel, September 2004

Cmdr. Robert D. Randall Jr., 21 February 2006

Cmdr. Robert A. Borchert, 18 August 2006

Cmdr. Brian P. Fort, 19 February 2008

Cmdr. Lynn Acheson, 19 August 2009

Cmdr. Stephen S. Lee, 25 February 2011

Cmdr. Christopher H. Inskeep, 3 August 2012

Cmdr. William K. Gantt Jr., 21 February 2014 

Major Overseas Deployments (or deployments away from home port for more than 2 months):

28 December 1998-25 June 1999, Mediterranean

25 April 2001-25 October 2001, Mediterranean

25 March 2005-18 September 2005, Mediterranean and Indian Ocean

September 2005-21 February 2006, Western Pacific and Indian Ocean

21 February-1 August 2006, Middle East and Mediterranean

Detailed history under construction.

Mark L. Evans

17 April 2015

 

Published:Mon Jul 13 12:28:44 EDT 2015