USS John Rodgers DD-983 (1979-1998)
The USS John Rodgers was fabricated by Ingalls Shipbuilding of Pascagoula, Mississippi. Her sponsor was Mrs. Roy C Smith, Jr., the great, great granddaughter of Commodore John Rodgers. She was commissioned on September 4, 1979, and her commander was CDR Wagner.
The John Rodgers was built as a Spruance class destroyer. Its basic purpose was to escort carrier groups performing antisubmarine warfare. The John Rodgers had many armaments for this purpose. She was equipped with AN/SPS40 air search radar, AN/SPG 60 fire control radar, AN/SPS 55 surface search radar, AN/SPQ 9 gun fire control radar, and auto detection and tracking radar. The Rodgers also had active and passive sonar. She was equipped with electronic warfare systems and decoys.
Service in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean
In the 1980’s she saw tours of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. She went through both the Suez Canal and the Panama Canal. The USS John Rodgers was also present in the Persian Gulf to support Iraq during their war against Iran. The destroyer went to Kenya and stopped at ports in Panama, Spain, France, England, Denmark, Morocco, and Egypt. She crossed the Equator numerous times, making her a Shellback – the term used for those who have crossed the equator.
The John Rodgers was the first to use MK86 Gunfire Control System in the field, in this case against Syrians who were in sections of Lebanon in 1983. That year saw the destroyer as the flagship for the South Atlantic Force, a mission which lasted several months. In 1995 she was part of the NATO Standing Naval Force Atlantic.
The ship also joined with the British Royal Navy and the Royal Marines for collaborative exercises. She was part of the Bright Star 97 Naval Exercise as part of the Mediterranean Amphibious Ready Group. Her participation in the Reliant Mermaid exercise brought her into contact with Turkey and Israel. The John Rodgers took part in many counter-drug operations in the Caribbean Sea. She was also active in Operation Desert Shield, Support Democracy, and the Sharp Group.
On her decommission on 4 September 1998, she was sent to NISMF Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for storage. She was eventually sold and broken up for scrap in 2006.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, especially during World War II, naval destroyers also pose a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were common, especially on older ships, because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with these ships should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.