The Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Elrod (FFG 55) returns to her homeport at Naval Station Norfolk after a six-month deployment to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility. This was Elrod's final scheduled deployment prior to decommissioning. (Ensign Jessica Kellogg/Navy)
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Lt. Adam Tabbert, from El Dorado, Wis., hugs his daughter following the final scheduled deployment of the USS Elrod . (Ensign Jessica Kellogg/Navy)
NORFOLK, VA. — The frigate Elrod made her last homecoming Saturday morning having completed a final six-month deployment to 6th Fleet. The 29-year-old ship is to be decommissioned Jan. 30 and sold to a foreign military.
The frigate shed its historic role of anti-submarine warfare and brought a Fire Scout detachment to provide unmanned surveillance to Africa Partnership Station off that continent’s western coast. The crew also teamed with the amphibious assault ship Bataan on June 6 to rescue 282 mariners from a small ship sinking near Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. It also conducted joint training with a host of nations to include Tunisia, Mauritania and Morocco.
While 51 frigates comprise the Oliver Perry class, the Navy has reduced that number to single digits. Lawmakers and Navy leaders, faced with diminishing budgets, made the decision to sell most frigates to foreign navies as the ships’ hulls hit their three-decade lifespan. The service will bid farewell to its last frigate, Kauffman, in October 2015. Indeed, the frigate’s fate made this a bitter sweet homecoming for many of Elrod’s nearly 200 sailors.
“I wouldn’t say it’s past its prime,” said Cmdr. Brad Stallings, Elrod’s skipper. “It still got a lot of life left in it, but it’s a financial thing with the military.”
“In the middle of a small ship, there is nowhere to go,” said Navy Counselor First Class (SW) Ronald Stacy, who has five other floats under his belt. “But the crew was tight and morale was through the roof. Everyone got along great and really pulled together. If there were still frigates around, I’d go to another one.”