In this file photo, a search and rescue swimmer aboard USS Stethem (DDG 63) retrieves a dummy during a man overboard drill. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Kevin V. Cunningham)

SOUTH CHINA SEA - USS Stethem (DDG 63), a guided missile destroyer assigned to Destroyer Squadron Fifteen, conducted search and rescue training while on a routine patrol in the South China Sea, May 16-17.

One of Stethem’s many missions is providing immediate assistance to any vessels or personnel in distress they may encounter.

“We have a versatile, multi-skilled crew. Drills and training keep our crew sharp and disciplined,” said Cmdr. Douglas Pegher, commanding officer of Stethem.

Stethem regularly conducts training events and drills to be ready for any contingency and to maintain a consistent level of readiness among the crew. The uncertainty of when drills occur keeps Sailors always at the ready and prepared to change tasks in a split second.

The training began with a resounding announcement of “THIS IS A DRILL, THIS IS A DRILL! MAN OVERBOARD, MAN OVERBOARD, STARBOARD SIDE!” that was heard throughout the ship. The ship’s boat crew, a search and rescue (SAR) swimmer, and medical team rushed into action, preparing to retrieve the man from the water. The rescue swimmer deployment team quickly prepared to lower the rescue swimmer into the water and at a moment’s notice deployed the rescue swimmer to retrieve the man.

“As a SAR swimmer, you always have to be prepared. You never know when you’ll be needed to perform a rescue,” said Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Daniel Rivera.

In addition to search and rescue operations, Stethem also routinely conducts damage control drills and live fire gunnery exercises, to maintain the proficiency of its crew across all mission sets.

U.S. Navy ships conduct routine patrols like this one in the 7th Fleet area of operations throughout the year and average 700 sailing days annually in the South China Sea alone.

The U.S. Navy has a long established pattern of routine naval operations in the area to promote maritime security.