USS STETHEM holds 25th Commissioning Anniversary Ceremony and Change of Command

by Lt. j. g. Carl Link
24 September 2020
USS STETHEM holds 25th Commissioning Anniversary Ceremony and Change of Command
USS STETHEM holds 25th Commissioning Anniversary Ceremony and Change of Command
USS STETHEM holds 25th Commissioning Anniversary Ceremony and Change of Command
USS STETHEM holds 25th Commissioning Anniversary Ceremony and Change of Command
USS STETHEM holds 25th Commissioning Anniversary Ceremony and Change of Command
Photo By: CNSP
VIRIN: 210824-N-N0831-0004
Friends and family gathered for a 25th commissioning anniversary ceremony and change of command at British Aerospace Engineering shipyard on Sep. 24.
 
USS Stethem (DDG 63) is named after Steelworker 2nd Class Robert Dean Stethem, and was commissioned on October 21, 1995, in Port Hueneme, California, as the thirteenth Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer. Stethem was returning home from overseas duty when the plane he was on was hijacked by terrorists. Stethem was singled out as a U.S. Sailor and was beaten and tortured by the terrorists in an attempt to have their demands met. Throughout the ordeal, Stethem refused to cry out, and in their desperation, the terrorists shot him to death and dumped his body onto the tarmac.
 
John Testrake, the pilot of the plane, memorialized Robbie, saying “In the predawn hours of June 15, 1985, on the airport runway at Beirut, Lebanon, Robert Stethem gave his life for his country. Robert looked at hate and death squarely and fearlessly, and no cry was heard to come from him. He stood alone that night in a far-away place for you and for me – his countrymen. I am honored to be called his fellow American.”
 
At the time of commissioning, Robbie’s father, Richard Stethem, said “carriers are named for presidents, battleships are named for states, and destroyers are named for heroes. Robert Dean Stethem is certainly that – an American Hero.”
 
During the ceremony, Sonar Technician Second Class Kevin Truong spoke of Robbie’s legacy, saying “Day in and day out, we strive for positive growth, both personally and professionally.  Steelworkers past and present understand that service in Stethem is not just service on another ship, but a promise to be the example of what Robbie believed in and stood for.”
 
Over the past 25 years, USS Stethem has operated around the world, including three deployments to the Persian Gulf, and performing operations across the maritime commons of the western Pacific and Indian Oceans, supporting national objectives of the United States and its allies.
 
In celebration of the 25 year anniversary, former commanding officers relayed some of their favorite memories of their time onboard USS Stethem for inclusion in the ceremony. Capt. Jeff Benson said in a statement that “it doesn’t matter where you travel in the world, the legacy of Robbie Stethem is global,” and recalled the memorial ceremony the second class petty officers would organize every year in June to “pause and reflect on Robbie’s life, [and] to remember his selfless act of courage.”
 
Capt. Shan Byrne shared a similar memory about the “special bond the ship and crew had with Robbie, Robbie’s story and the Stethem family,” and how amazing it was “to see how the crew would rally around the memory of Robbie and engage with the Stethem family” with whom he remains in touch with today.
 
Following the celebration of the 25th commissioning anniversary, Cmdr. John Kajmowicz relieved Cmdr. John Rummel as Commanding Officer of USS Stethem. Rummel served as Stethem’s commanding officer since May 2019. His follow-on assignment is as executive assistant to the Director, Missile Defense Agency.
 
In his final remarks, Rummel reflected on his last 16 months as commanding officer, saying “Steelworkers, your resilience and ability to overcome any obstacle placed in front of you is simply amazing. There is nothing you cannot accomplish when we work together. I am proud to have been your Captain and am honored to have served with each and every one of you.”
 
Under Rummel’s command, Stethem participated in several multi-national and western Pacific theater support operations to include the joint anti-submarine warfare training exercise Silent Shark conducted with the Republic of Korea Navy, high-value unit escort duties, and U.S. 7th  Fleet presence missions.  Also during his tenure, USS Stethem returned home to San Diego, California after 14 years of forward deployed service in Yokosuka, Japan, and is the midst of an 18-month Extended Drydocking Selected Restricted Availability (EDSRA) at BAE shipyard.  
 
Commander Kajmowicz hails from Lincolnwood, Illinois and graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2001, with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.  He most recently served as the Executive Officer in USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), also relieving Rummel there in 2018.  
 
“Robert’s legacy is a tremendous example of service and sacrifice.  His selflessness has inspired the Steelworkers aboard Stethem for 25 years and we are grateful to celebrate this important milestone with the Stethem family.  I am honored to join this amazing crew and look forward to getting this ship back to sea.” said Kajmowicz upon assuming command.
 
Also in attendance at the ceremony were Robert Stethem’s older brother, Ken, and younger brother, Patrick, with his wife, Katherine, and their three children.  The crew of USS Stethem continues to maintain a close relationship with the Stethem family, and is committed to preserving Stethem’s legacy of steadfast devotion and courageous service. 
 
Ken Stethem addressed the crew during the ceremony, saying “I want you to remember what Robert did, how he did it, and why he did it,” continuing with a quote from Thomas Paine, “‘I love the man that can smile in danger, gathers strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but to he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death,’ that’s Robert Dean Stethem. That’s why we should remember him”
 
Stethem is currently homeported in San Diego, California and assigned to Destroyer Squadron 21.

 
Commander, Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 2841 Rendova Rd. San Diego, CA 92155-5490
 
This is an official U.S. Navy website
Email: Public Affairs Officer | Webmaster
Commander, Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 2841 Rendova Rd. San Diego, CA 92155-5490

This is an official
U.S. Navy website

U.S. Pacific Fleet
2841 Rendova Rd
San Diego, CA
92155-5490

Email:
Public Affairs Officer
Webmaster

 
Guidance-Card-Icon Dept-Exclusive-Card-Icon