By Cmdr. Daniel Straub
Commanding Officer, USS Ingraham
Ingraham’s motto is the “Last and the Finest.” As the last frigate built for the United States Navy, Ingraham embodied the best of what it was to be a multi-mission warship capable of rapidly responding and operating forward in support of our nation’s tasking. This ship remained ready and prepared to respond for the country for twenty-five years. In 1991 it was a humanitarian mission, undertaken after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Republic of the Philippines. As Ms. Gay Lynn O’Hara, one of the personnel evacuated with her two children, wrote in a letter to me, “Ingraham evacuated two sets of approximately 400 dependents.” She also wrote, “The ship truly was ‘A Global Force for Good’” in June 1991, as it has been since.
Ingraham has remained that Global Force for Good, and during her 25 years of service to the nation, Ingraham has answered America’s call.
As I walk the deckplates I see how much work has gone into making Ingraham the great warship that she is. I see the care that was put in every day to her maintenance and operation. Material readiness, operational readiness, mission readiness, combat readiness – all of these things have two things in common; the first is readiness, readiness to do the nation’s tasking. Ingraham has always been ready, willing, and able to fulfill her mission requirements. The second thing these all have in common is Ingraham’s crew; they are the ones who forged all of Ingraham’s successes. This is a crew who has proven time and again that they care about their ship and about each other.
One of the things that makes frigates unique is that the crews are smaller than most; each person has to rely on one another for everything, from knowing how to fight fires and perform damage control to getting along and finding ways to reconcile differences – we have to see each other every day; we figure it out quickly that getting along makes things a whole lot easier! Ingraham Sailors take ownership; they do their jobs well, and they do not cut corners, even when no one is looking; they follow procedures, and they know that if they do not, either themselves or someone they know will have to pay for their short-cut or complacency. They do these things because they know that on a frigate, you have to be self-sufficient and self-reliant – you have to keep your gear in top operational condition because no one else is going to fix it for you. The redundancy found on other ships, whether it be personnel or equipment is just not there on a frigate. The bench is not deep; the bench is us.
I know that there is some sense of idealization now that Ingraham is coming to the end of her operational life, so I also want to emphasize that the journey has not been easy. Ingraham’s Sailors have mixed their sweat and labor and sacrifice with her success. As a testament to her life-long relentless efforts and robust schedule, the past couple of years have been rigorous and demanding of the crew. While away from her homeport in Everett, Washington, in 2013, Ingraham spent months conducting basic phase training, two months conducting maintenance in San Diego, and an additional two more months in San Diego for a Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) Material Inspection. This year, Ingraham spent all of January conducting work-ups prior to deployment, then in March the ship departed for a seven-and-a-half month Combating Transnational Organized Crime deployment to the 4th Fleet area of operations.
Although it was challenging, all the training and material preparations paid off when Ingraham and her embarked Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments proved her mettle through the disruption and interdiction of 11.9 metric tons of cocaine – more than 26,000 pounds! – valued at more than $561 million, and the detention of 32 suspected illicit trafficking personnel for extended periods of time over the course of her deployment. On top of that, Ingraham also captured a fully-loaded self-propelled semi-submersible vessel (SPSS) in the Eastern Pacific.
The seizure of such a SPSS vessel was a significant feat for U.S. and multinational forces that conduct year-round counter illicit trafficking operations in the waters off Latin America and the Caribbean.
Semi-submersibles are commonly used by illicit traffickers to move large amounts of drugs and other contraband because the vessel’s low profile makes it extremely difficult to detect at sea. U.S. and regional partner nation law enforcement agencies rarely spot a semi-submersible on the high seas. And when they do, capturing a semi-submersible is very difficult since the crews often attempt to scuttle and sink the craft to dispose of evidence.
As a final test to the crew’s impressive efforts, USS Ingraham’s crew successfully embarked to Peru to participate in UNITAS 55-2014, with 14 partner nations. After UNITAS, Ingraham participated in the silent forces exercise (SIFOREX) alongside three Peruvian diesel submarines and two Peruvian Frigates. Wrapping up the deployment, Ingraham participated in Peru’s Navy Day parade, with more than 30 Sailors marching in their annual parade.
Ingraham performed all of this without missing one operational commitment and without a mid-deployment maintenance availability – this is a testament to the sheer ingenuity, perseverance, and will of this crew.
As the Navy’s most recently commissioned warship, USS America (LHA 6), begins her journey, USS Ingraham officially ends her legacy in the fleet. All the incredible men and women who have served our country on this great warship have earned my deepest gratitude and the gratitude of this nation.