The USS Chafee, the newest destroyer home-ported at Pearl Harbor, arrived home for the first time yesterday. Family members waved from shore to the sailors on board as the ship pulled into the harbor.

New Navy destroyer
Chafee will spend 2004
in training

The Navy's newest destroyer -- USS Chafee -- sailed into Pearl Harbor for the first time yesterday, but it probably will not be ready for full duty until late next year.

Capt. Phil Greene, commander of Destroyer Squadron 31, said the nearly 510-foot warship will spend most of next year in training and testing its combat systems, which is considered standard procedure for new ships.

The 9,200-ton vessel is the fifth destroyer in Greene's squadron with another, the USS Chung-Hoon, expected to join the Pacific Fleet late next year.

The Chafee, with a crew of 340 officers and sailors, was commissioned in Newport, R.I., on Oct. 18. It is named after the late Rhode Island Sen. John Chafee, who also was secretary of the Navy from 1969-72.

Greene said the Chafee, skippered by Cmdr. John Ailes, differs from earlier Arleigh Burke-class destroyers because it maintains two SB-60B helicopters crewed by members of Helicopter Antisubmarine Light 37 from Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe.

"It also has the most modern Aegis weapons system, which includes a greater air defense capability," Greene said. "The Chafee brings more versatility to our destroyer squadron."

Payton Reynolds napped yesterday as mom Melissa and sister Shealy visited with dad Byron.

Petty Officer Jason Gabrielson, a gas turbine systems mechanic, said the Chafee "rides like a Cadillac. The ship sails smoothly."

Gabrielson, a 10-year Navy veteran, has served at Pearl Harbor before -- on the destroyer USS Russell from 1996 to 1999.

His wife, Anita, has been here since June getting herself and their two children settled while Gabrielson helped to commission the warship first in Maine and then in Rhode Island, preparing the Chafee for its first voyage from the East Coast to Hawaii.

"We've been apart for 15 months," Anita Gabrielson said. "First he was away at school, and then he was part of the pre-commissioning detachment."

However, the family did get together in San Diego to spend Thanksgiving together. "He had duty on the ship that day," she said, "so we had Thanksgiving dinner on the ship."

Joanna Kajka, whose husband, Jason, is a petty officer on the Chafee, was among the family members gathered at Hospital Point near the beginning of the Pearl Harbor channel for a glimpse of the new warship.

"They are all gas turbine specialists and are usually in the engine room making sure everything is running smoothly," said Kajka as she scanned the ship's deck with a pair of binoculars, looking for her husband.

"Today they promised to be on deck, manning the rails so we could wave to them," she said.


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