MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- USS Simpson (FFG 56) pulled back into homeport at Naval Station Mayport April 5, after a six-month counter-narco terrorism deployment to the Eastern Pacific with Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) 405 and Helicopter Squadron Anti-Submarine Light (HSL)46 Detachment (Det) 7.
Simpson departed Mayport on Oct. 5, 2007 en route to the Eastern Pacific with a brief port visit to Montego Bay, Jamaica, before transiting through the Panama Canal. The primary mission throughout the deployment was drug interdiction in the Eastern Pacific. Simpson succeeded in stopping an estimated 16 metric tons of cocaine from making it to the streets of America.
On Nov. 29, Simpson, LEDET 405 and HSL 46 Det 7 worked together for the successful interdiction of a self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) vessel suspected of smuggling drugs. An SPSS is capable of carrying 5-8 metric tons of cocaine and has no maritime use other than the covert transport of narcotics or other illegal goods. The SPSS crew managed to sink the vessel and the four suspected smugglers were detained and turned over to Colombian authorities.
Other port visits of the deployment included Cartagena, Columbia, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, numerous visits to Panama City, Panama, and Aruba.
Cartagena, an old European-style town set on the Caribbean Sea, offered beautiful scenery and great shopping. In Guantanamo Bay, many of the crew members took a tour of the entire base. Panama City became a second home to Simpson's crew during deployment with three port visits to the growing city, including one during Carnivale, a festival that takes place every year before Lent.
The port visits provided the Sailors with liberty along with a chance to improve international relations as Simpson's crew interacted with the host nations. The Morale, Welfare, and Recreation team set up numerous trips during the port visits for the crew to get a chance to experience different aspects of the host nations. Some of these trips included a beach trip in Cartagena, a white-water rafting trip in Panama, and a hiking trip to the waterfalls outside of Montego Bay.
Community relations projects were conducted throughout the deployment including painting an orphanage in Panama and repairing an orphanage in Jamaica.
"I believe that it did a little part in helping make the girls home more welcoming and comfortable to live in. To me it was a blessing to help others in need," said Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Marshall Knight.
Generally, ships deployed to Latin America return to Mayport for a mid-deployment repair period. Simpson's emergent repairs were completed in Panama City instead.
"A combined and proactive effort by the crew and technical representatives, who flew out to meet the ship in Panama, corrected many of the equipment casualties that inevitably come to a ship halfway through deployment," said Lt Cmdr. Antonio Defrias, Simpson's executive officer. "In one short week, we were able to cut our equipment causalities in half. The successful repair period was a testimony to Simpson's adaptability and commitment to mission."
Simpson Sailors achieved success on all levels, as a unit and individually. Twenty-five Sailors earned their Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialists pins and five officers earned their Surface Warfare Officer pins during deployment.
During the final port visit of deployment to Aruba, the ship conducted a change of command ceremony as Cmdr. Edwin D. Kaiser relieved Cmdr. Luis A. Maldonado as commanding officer (CO) of Simpson. Maldonado served as CO of Simpson from July 2006 to March 2008.
Simpson, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate under Destroyer Squadron 14, deployed to the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command area of focus under tactical control of Joint Interagency Task Force South. Simpson conducted counterdrug operations, which are joint efforts designed to support participating nation's drug control programs and the President's national drug control strategy.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusns/.