Ho'okele Staff | Jul 19, 2013
The decommissioning of the USS Reuben James on July 18 marked the end of the long history of the last remaining guided-missile frigate homeported in Hawaii.
The USS Reuben James was named after Boatswain’s Mate Reuben James of Delaware, Ohio and is the third U.S. Navy ship to bear that name. Born in 1775, Boatswain’s Mate James saved the life of Lt. Stephen Decatur during the Barbary Wars of the early 1800s. James later served under Decatur during the War of 1812. Wounded three times during his wartime service, James was compelled to retire in 1836 because of declining health and the loss of one leg. He died on Dec. 3, 1838 at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Reuben James (FFG 57) was commissioned into the fleet under the command of Cmdr. John J. Kieley III on March 22, 1986, and in June 1987, it joined the Red Stallions of Destroyer Squadron 31. On its maiden deployment, the ship participated in 22 Operation Earnest Will convoy missions, serving as the convoy commander’s flagship on 10 of those missions.
Operation Earnest Will was a U.S. program to provide military protection to Kuwaiti-owned tankers threatened by Iranian attacks during the Iran-Iraq War. At the time, it was the largest naval convoy operation since World War II.
The next stop for Reuben James was Hollywood. The ship features prominently in the 1990 film, “The Hunt for Red October.” Reuben James also had a prominent role in Tom Clancy’s book, “Red Storm Rising.”
In August 1991, Reuben James moved from Long Beach, Calif. to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On Oct. 1, 1998, the ship joined the “Ke Koa O Ke Kai,” Destroyer Squadron 31.
Within a few years, Reuben James was back in the Middle East. For nine months from July 2002 to April 2003, the ship was deployed to the Arabian Gulf and participated in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
In spring of 2004, Reuben James deployed to the eastern Pacific in support of counter-drug operations. Throughout 2006, the ship conducted assorted maritime security operations and provided such services as giving medical assistance to Sri Lankan fishermen and rescuing Kenyan sailors.
More recently, Reuben James participated in passing exercises (PASSEX) with the Philippine Navy frigate BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15) off the coast of Hawaii in July 2011.
Reuben James returned to Pearl Harbor from its final deployment in May 2013.