The crews of guided-missile destroyers USS Halsey (DDG 97) and USS Russell (DDG 59) finished swapping hulls at Naval Base San Diego Jan. 25.
Russell arrived from its prior homeport of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to San Diego, Jan. 9, where it will be permanently stationed.
Halsey and Russell then proceeded to turn over their respective administrative and maintenance responsibilities, then executed a hull swap and exchanged command.
Hull swaps, or ship rotations, are part of the Navy’s long-term plan to routinely replace older ships with newer or more capable ships.
“Halsey is a Flight 2A (destroyer). It’s not a ballistic missile defense (BMD) national asset, but it has helicopter hangars, so it has a more robust helicopter capability for when it deploys overseas,” noted Lt. David Sandomir, hull swap coordinator for Halsey and now chief engineer aboard Russell. “Russell is a Flight 1 (destroyer). It still can land helicopters and use them as an asset, but it can’t embark them.”
The majority of the ships’ crews will remain in their respective locations. Certain members of each ship’s combat systems department that are trained specifically on different Aegis weapon system baselines will stay behind.
“Because our Aegis baselines are fundamentally different, our Aegis divisions remained in their current platforms,” said Sandomir. “They have the corporate knowledge and training on that Aegis baseline, so we have about 15 members of the old Hawaii crew on board, and we sent 18 members of our San Diego crew to Hawaii.”
The commanding officer, executive officer and command master chief of each ship met at least once a day to ensure the hull swap process went smoothly and to discuss the challenges that faced them.
“The turnover process is more complicated than walking across the pier and boarding the other ship,” said Cmdr. Michael L. Weeldreyer, now the commanding officer of USS Russell. “There needs to be a continual discussion of the crews and everybody needs to make sure the differences are discussed. The fact his crew and my crew worked together worked out pretty well.”
The Hawaii crew, which relinquished command of Russell and took command of Halsey, is currently going through a crew certification before they return to Hawaii. Some members of the Hawaii crew were San Diego-area natives and used their time in California to reacquaint themselves with family and friends.
“It was good coming out here and seeing my family,” said Operations Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Jenkerson, an Inland Empire native. “When I’m in Hawaii, I can’t make a short trip up the road to see my family. I made the most of my time while I was here, so I enjoyed it.”