The destroyer Oscar Austin will return to Norfolk on Friday, and will be followed by the frigate Kauffman two days later. The destroyer is wrapping up a successful eight-month independent deployment to the 5th and 6th Fleets, but its older brother is likely to steal the headlines.
This marks the final deployment for the Kauffman and the Oliver Hazard Perry-class of frigates. It is scheduled for decommissioning in October, and will be the last frigate to decommission.
Cmdr. Michael Concannon wais Kauffman's 18th and final skipper. A machinist's mate who received his commission from The Citadel in 1996, Concannon led Kauffman's crew of 220 officers and enlisted 17 officers and 198 sailors on this six-month counter-drug patrol deployment to Central and South America for a Counter Transnational Organized Crime/Counter Illicit Trafficking mission.
Kauffman's crew of 17 officers and 198 sailors, and its embarked Coast Guard team on May 16 nabbed 3,900 pounds of cocaine valued at $59 million, and detained three drugrunnerscrewmembers. Indeed, frigates are the heavy hitter in the Navy's fight against drug traffickers. The ships were involved in "the vast majority" of Navy interdictions over the past five years. In that time, Navy surface vessels nabbed 164 metric tons of cocaine valued at $3.2 billion, and frigates were responsible for 98 percent of that total. Similarly, the class is responsible for 76 percent of 26,000 pounds of marijuana seized, and all of the every bit of 1.32 kilograms of heroin that was seized.
Kauffman's decommissioning will mark the first time in more than 70 years that the Navy will be without the traditional frigate. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has said that the up-gunned versions of the littoral combat ship will be renamed frigates and carry on this tradition. — a term used since the Littoral Combat Ship was officially dubbed a "frigate" earlier this year. Ultimately, the Littoral Combat Ship will join Coast Guard cutters and 13 partner nations in the war on drugs.
Some frigates will see life in other navies. For example, McClusky and Curts will be transferred to Mexico while Taylor, Gary, Carr, and Elrod will go to Taiwan.