A dark and soggy Naval Station Norfolk greeted the officers and crew from the guided-missile destroyer Forrest Sherman when they returned to their Virginia homeport on Dec. 22, 2022, following eight months at sea. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anderson W. Branch.
The guided-missile destroyer Forrest Sherman capped its NATO patrol with a late arrival in Virginia.
Until less than two weeks ago the flagship of the multinational Standing NATO Maritime Group 2, Forrest Sherman steamed into Naval Station Norfolk shortly before 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 22, three days before Christmas.
Putting to sea in a hasty “surge deployment” to support US Navy operations in Europe roughly eight months ago, the officers and crew manning the rails had sailed more than 37,000 nautical miles, conducted 21 replenishments at sea — 15 with oilers from allied nations — and launched 570 hours of flight operations before they returned to their homeport.
The destroyer plied the Mediterranean, Ionian, Adriatic, Aegean, and Tyrrhenian seas, a NATO patrol spanning the Straits of Gibraltar to the Syrian Channel.
“This year presented extraordinary challenges and incredible opportunities for the Forrest Sherman crew,” said Cmdr. Lawrence Heyworth IV, the warship’s commanding officer, in a prepared statement emailed to Coffee or Die Magazine. “The primary mission of Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 is to provide NATO with an immediate operational response capability while enhancing and improving our interoperability and interchangeability with our NATO Allies and partners.”
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer Forrest Sherman returns to Naval Station Norfolk on Dec 22, 2022. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anderson W. Branch.
Part of a flotilla of 21 ships commanded by US Navy Rear Adm. Scott Sciretta, Forrest Sherman participated in five major exercises with NATO allies and partners.
It also sailed alongside NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 and the US Navy’s aircraft carriers Harry S. Truman and George H.W. Bush, plus the French flattop Charles De Gaulle, the Italian Navy’s Cavour Carrier Strike Group, and the United Kingdom’s Albion Littoral Readiness Group.
Its crew also called on ports in Croatia, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Spain, and Turkey.
Forrest Sherman lifted NATO’s flagship pennant on July 1 and relinquished it to sister Arleigh Burke-class destroyer James E. Williams at Naval Station Rota in Spain on Dec. 13.
“I can’t express enough how proud I am of the sailors on board USS Forrest Sherman,” said Sciretta in a NATO communiqué. “They served admirably, meeting and exceeding each and every operational commitment and challenge. Their persistent presence as the flagship for an international task group served as an active deterrent to our adversaries and ensured peace and respect for national sovereignty, territorial integrity, human rights and international law. As a result of their efforts, the NATO alliance is stronger than ever, and we will continue to demonstrate how our combat-credible, forward-deployed force is the most potent, flexible and versatile instrument of military power. To the sailors of Forrest Sherman and their families whose sacrifices allow them to serve, thank you.”
Editor's Note: This story was updated to add the time the destroyer was pierside.
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Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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