Sterett spent the rest of 1967 operating off the west coast undergoing various post-acceptance tests and trials, participating in shakedown training, and generally preparing for her final acceptance trials held between 18 and 20 December. Arriving in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard again on 8 January 1968, she underwent post-shakedown availability until 29 March. On that day, she departed from Bremerton for FAST exercises with fast combat support ship Camden (AOE 2). After 20 days in home port at Long Beach, Calif., she stood out on 23 April for FLEETEX 2-68, returning on 1 May. With the exception of two short excursions, one for nuclear capable certification and the other for COMTUEX 8-68, Sterett remained in homeport until 19 June, when she departed San Pedro Bay for her first Westpac tour. After stops at Pearl Harbor and Midway, she arrived in Yokosuka, Japan, on 5 July and began preparations for her first line period in the Tonkin Gulf.
One month to the day after her departure from the United States, Sterett got underway again, this time via Subic Bay in the Philippines, en route to PIRAZ duty in the gulf. She put in at Danang, South Vietnam, for briefings on the 30th and departed immediately thereafter. On the last day of July 1968, Sterett relieved guided missile frigate Horne (DLG 30) as PIRAZ unit. With destroyer Rich (DD 820) riding shotgun for her, she plied the waters off North Vietnam until relieved on 5 August. She moved on to duty as sea air rescue (SAR) ship and strike support ship (SSS), which she performed until 4 September. During her first crack at SAR, Sterett directed two successful rescues of pilots. The guided missile frigate continued alternating between PIRAZ, SAR, SSS, and in-port periods until mid-March 1969.
On 17 March 1969, Sterett joined Carrier Division 3 in the Sea of Japan for six days of special operations. From 23 March to mid-May, she sailed along the coasts of Korea, both in the Sea of Japan and in the Yellow Sea, providing protection for Peacetime Aerial Reconnaissance Program (PARPRO) flights, one of which had recently been downed by the North Koreans. By 25 May, she was back on PIRAZ station, off the coast of North Vietnam. She continued in this employment, taking time for a short period of PARPRO picket duty (9 to 13 July), until entering Yokosuka on 11 September for modifications to her weapon systems. Departing Japan at the end of October, Sterett conducted exercises and made another PARPRO cruise (3 to 20 December).
The guided missile frigate continued to shuttle back and forth between Yokosuka and the Tonkin Gulf for the first seven months of 1970. She alternated between PIRAZ duty and SAR/SSS duty, taking time out for a six-day stay at Hong Kong (10 to 16 February), an overnight layover in Keelung, Taiwan, (29 to 30 May), and a two-day visit to EXPO ‘70 at Kobe, Japan. On 29 July, Sterett set sail from Yokosuka to return to the United States.
Over two years after her departure for the western Pacific, Sterett entered San Diego Bay. On 15 August, she began a leave and upkeep period prior to overhaul at Long Beach. Exactly two months later, she entered San Pedro Bay on her way to the naval shipyard. Sterett underwent a five-month overhaul, during which she was converted to Navy Distillate Fuel and received various weapons modifications. She stood out of Long Beach on 23 March 1971 and arrived in San Diego Bay three days later. Sterett spent all of 1971 either in port on, or operating off, the west coast. After leaving Long Beach and overhaul, she was engaged in post-overhaul trials and refresher training. During July, she visited San Francisco (2 to 5 July), Vancouver, B. C., (9 to 13 July), and Pearl Harbor (21 to 25 July), while conducting a midshipman cruise. From August to December, Sterett was involved in several exercises. By 8 December, she began preparing for another Westpac deployment.
On 7 January 1972, Sterett pointed her bow westward for her second tour of duty off the Vietnamese coast. Visiting Pearl Harbor on the 15th and refueling at Guam 10 days later, she arrived in Subic Bay on the 29th. Following eight days at Subic Bay, she departed for the Tonkin Gulf. From 10 February to 3 March, Sterett remained on PIRAZ station and, on 21 February, became the first Navy ship to direct the downing of a MiG-21 by Air Force CAP. En route to Subic Bay, the frigate participated in ASW exercises with submarine Sculpin (SSN 590). She entered Subic Bay on 5 March and stayed until the 19th. She relieved guided missile cruiser Chicago (CG 11) as PIRAZ unit two days later. During her second line period of the deployment, Sterett participated in the downing of two more MiG's (30 March) and brought down another with a salvo of Terrier missiles during the Dong Hoi engagement on 19 April. Later on that day, she launched a second salvo of Terriers at an unidentified target, probably a Styx surface-to-surface missile, destroying it in midair. After adding two more successful pilot rescues to her tally, she returned to Subic Bay on 22 May.
Sterett changed roles upon her return to the Tonkin Gulf on 28 May. This time, she took up the south Talos station and acted as back up for the PIRAZ ship, guided missile cruiser Long Beach (CGN 9). Following a six-day visit to Hong Kong, she returned to PIRAZ duty on 21 June. On 8 July, her CAP controller vectored Air Force planes to a successful interception of two additional MiG's. Just over a week later, she departed the Tonkin Gulf for Subic Bay, en route to the United States. She returned to San Diego on 8 August and operated off the west coast for the rest of 1972.
She began 1973 just as she had ended 1972, cruising in the southern California operating area. Sterett set off on her third Westpac cruise on 9 March, sailing in company with Camden, aircraft carrier Coral Sea (CVA 43), and ocean escort Reasoner (DE 1063). This task unit, designated TU 37.1.2, stopped at Pearl Harbor and entered Subic Bay on 25 March. During the transit, Sterett's LAMPS helicopter crashed while ferrying the chaplain between ships for divine services. Fortunately, all crewmembers survived.
By the time Sterett got underway for line duty, the Vietnam cease-fire had already been negotiated. Thus, the ensuing line period was relatively uneventful, consisting of exercises, plane-guard duty, PIRAZ, and antiaircraft warfare responsibility. Underway since 2 April, the frigate entered Sasebo, Japan, on 30 May. After Sasebo, she visited Keelung, Taiwan, from 15 to 19 June and, on the latter day, steamed for the Tonkin Gulf. During this line period, Sterett had to leave the PIRAZ station to evade a typhoon, but resumed her duties on 14 July.
Following liberty in Hong Kong from 18 to 23 July, Sterett steamed for Subic Bay, where she underwent repairs and embarked three midshipmen for their First Class cruise. On 2 August, she set sail for her last line period before returning to the United States. From the 2d to the 16th, she cruised off the coast of Vietnam, and then made for Yokosuka, en route to the United States. Sterett stopped at Pearl Harbor on 31 August to disembark the three midshipmen and stood out again the next day for San Diego, arriving on 6 September. She completed 1973 in the San Diego area, preparing for her regular overhaul.
The overhaul period in Long Beach Naval Shipyard started February 1974 and was completed in November of that year. During this period, Sterett’s 3" guns were replaced with Harpoon missile batteries of which Sterett was the first major combatant in the US Navy to receive. A complete overhaul of her engineering plant was completed and Sterett was reconfigured for as a task force command ship. Sterett also received a third computer for her NTDS suite and a thorough modernization of berthing spaces. The rest of 1974 and the first part of 1975 following post overhaul Sea Trials were spent doing qualifications and operations in the Sand Diego area.
In March of 1977, following embarkation of Helicopter Anti-submarine Light Squadron (HSL-31), Sterett departed San Diego for Yokosuka, Japan. On 11 March 1977 during transit, HSL-31’s Seasprite helicopter crashed at sea and LCdr Jeffrey Smith was lost at sea. The rest of the crew were rescued. Following visits to the Philippines, Indonesia and the Australia, Sterett was dispatched to Iran for operations with the Naval units of the Shah of Iran. After retuning to operations in the Indian Ocean, Sterett returned to San Diego in October of 1977. The rest of 1977 was spent on upkeep and operations in the SOCAL area.
Sterett underwent a long maintenance availability from January through March of 1978 followed by refresher training (REFTRA). Two Phalanx 20mm Close-In Weapons Systems (CIWS) were installed aboard Sterett for protection from anti-ship missies and high-speed, low level aircraft.
From May 1978 to June Midshipmen embarked on Sterett for annual training. In July, Sterett traveled up the west coast to Portland during the Rose Festival and Seattle for the SeaFair celebration. In September of 1978, Sterett departed San Diego for operations in The Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. On 7 December, Sterett was dispatched to the Gulf of Oman. Sterett was stationed off the coast of Iran during the revolution that ultimately unseated the Shah of Iran and placed Ayatollah Khomeini in power. Sterett remained on station until relieved on 14 Jan 1979.
In April of 1979, Sterett departed Subic Bay enroute to San Diego. Sterett’s Tactical Data System equipment was removed in June and in July 1979, Sterett began a regular overhaul at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. The overhaul was completed in October of 1980, followed by sea trials, qualification trials and combat systems training.
In 1981 while home ported in San Diego Sterett underwent refresher training in preparation for a homeport shift to Subic Bay in the Republic of the Philippines. On 27 July 1981 Sterett departed for the Philippines. This move would result in Sterett being forward deployed for 10 years before retuning to San Diego in June of 1991. This was the most time any US Navy ship had spent being forward deployed away from U.S. soil. For those 10 years, Sterett served as flagship and conducted “Show the Flag” visits to ports throughout the Western Pacific as well as operation with friendly nations such as Korea, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia. Subic Bay and Japanese bases provided shipyard services for the ship and crew.
Sterett earned three Humanitarian awards for rescuing Vietnamese boat people escaping communist ruled Vietnam. On June 10. 1982, Sterett rescued a boatload of 20 refugees who had been beset upon by pirates and left to drift. Then on 20 July 1983, Sterett rescued a boatload of 127 refugees. The next day, 21 July, Sterett picked up a second boat with 92 people aboard. All refugees were transported to Thailand for processing and medical care. Again in July of 1989 Sterett picked up 48 refugees at sea.
On 8 Sept 1983, Sterett served as flagship for CTF-71 during the search and salvage operations following the downing of Korean Airline flight KAL007 by Soviet forces. Sterett spent 55 days on the scene and was confronted repeatedly by Soviet combatants. Sterett was awarded the Korean Presidential Unit Citation for this action.
On 8 July 1985, Sterett was dispatched to the North Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman in support of the USS Midway Battle Group during unrest between Iran and Iraq.
Sterett ran aground near Yeongil-Man Bay, Korea 21 June 1986 resulting in extensive damage to her sonar dome. Sterett extracted herself without assist and returned under her own power to Subic Bay for repairs. Sterett was in dry dock until mid-August of 1986.
Sterett returned to the North Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman in November of 1987 operating with Battle Group Alpha, protecting shipping being threatened due to the Iran – Iraq war. Sterett spent Christmas in Oman and was visited by Senator Edward Kennedy who was carrying a message of support from President Reagan. Sterett remained in the Persian Gulf area until the middle of February of 1988.
In May of 1989 Sterett in accompaniment of USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) with Commander of U.S. Seventh Fleet embarked and USS Rodney M. Davis (FFG 60) bound for an historic visit to Shanghai, China. The three-day port visit, the first of its kind by U. S. warships in forty years, included a picnic held at the American Consulate, receptions held aboard USS Blue Ridge and Sterett and reciprocal ship visits. Against the background of burgeoning pro-democracy demonstrations, the crew took advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the Chinese people and explore the city of Shanghai.
Sterett joined Battle Group Romeo in November of 1989 to escort the USS New Jersey (BB 62) in transit to the North Arabian Sea. During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Sterett remained in the Western Pacific conducting training and joint military exercises with U.S. and Korean units.
On 10 May 1991, Sterett set sail from Subic Bay for a hone port change back to San Diego. Upon entering San Diego on 4 June 1991, Sterett was trailing a 400-foot homecoming pennant.
Sterett entered dry dock on 13 September at the Southwest Marine facility in San Diego. Engineering and habitability spaces received special attention but the major upgrade was Combat System upgrades and installation of the New Threat Upgrade (NTU) suite. This was a major enhancement that replaced and/or upgraded all electronic systems, weapons systems and radars aboard the ship. It was during this overhaul that crewmembers were notified that the CNO had authorized Sterett the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation for recognition of Sterett’s participation in earthquake and typhoon disaster aid and for other acts of humanitarian aid to the Filipino population while home ported in Subic Bay. Sterett completed post overhaul sea trials in October of 1992 and immediately commenced training and qualification trials.
In July of 1992 Sterett began a four and a half month deployment to the Caribbean in support of CENTAM/CARIB counter narcotics operations. Sterett passed through the Panama Canal on 28 Sept 1993. In October, Sterett was redirected to the waters off Haiti is support of “Operation Support Democracy.” During CENTAM/CARIB operations, Sterett was instrumental in the disruption of delivery of over 28,000 kilograms of cocaine. Sterett ended the deployment with 58 friends and dependents on a “Tiger Cruise” from Mazatlan to San Diego.
Sterett’s last cruise before decommissioning was a dependents cruise in the SOCAL area on 8 January 1994. Sterett was decommissioned and stricken from the Navy Register on 24 March 1994 at San Diego. Transferred to the Maritime Administration 12 May of the same year, she was laid up at the Suisun Bay, CA. reserve pending disposal. On 31 July 2005 ex-Sterett was sold to International Shipbreaking of Brownsville, Texas for dismantling and recycling.
Transcribed by Michael Hansen from the DANFS and amended by Elden Miller firstname.lastname@example.org