The USS Fletcher (DD-992) served in the U.S. Navy for nearly two and a half decades in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. She was named for Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher who served with the U.S. Navy during World War II. Fletcher was a member of the Spruance-class of naval destroyers.
Fletcher was laid down at Pascagoula, Mississippi by the Litton Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation in April 1978, launched in June 1979, and commissioned in July 1980 with Commander Steven C. Saulnier in command. At 563 feet long, Fletcher supported a crew complement of 296 and was armed with two five-inch rapid fire guns, a surface-to-air missile system, an anti-submarine rocket launcher, six 12.75-inch anti-submarine torpedo tubes, and one helicopter. Fletcher could travel at a cruising speed of 30 knots and had a range of 6,000 nautical miles at 20 knots.
Fletcher joined the Pacific Fleet after being commissioned and began a routine of western and southern Pacific deployments beginning in 1982. These deployments sometimes involved trips into the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf. Fletcher visited Vancouver, British Columbia in June 1991 and sailed to Fremantle, Australia in 1997 and 1999. The destroyer was fitted with a vertical missile launch system in the 1990s as well.
Fletcher participated in RIMPAC 2000 in June 2000 with the militaries of seven Asian nations in the Pacific Ocean. Exercises in the Arabian Gulf followed in November. Fletcher took part in Maritime Interdiction Operations in 2002 during Operation Enduring Freedom in the Middle East. During this deployment, Fletcher also supported the implementation of United Nations sanctions against Iraq.
In January 2003, Fletcher completed a six-month deployment with the Abraham Lincoln Battle Group, and then swapped crews with the decommissioned USS Kinkaid in Australia. Fletcher then spent 17 months operating with the 5th Fleet during Operation Iraqi Freedom as well as Operation Enduring Freedom. The destroyer returned to Pearl Harbor in May 2004 and San Diego in June. Fletcher was decommissioned in October and then sunk during target training exercises off Kauai, Hawaii in July 2008.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Fletcher (DD-992)
Although the USS Fletcher was built right around the time the U.S. Navy was phasing out the use of asbestos in the construction of its ships, it is highly likely that she was constructed with some amount of asbestos insulation. No matter what the job, those serving aboard the Fletcher probably sustained some amount of asbestos exposure. If a member of the crew was primarily employed in the ship's engineering section, their exposure would likely be greater than those in other occupations who worked in different areas of the ship.
Drydock and shipyard workers were also at risk of being exposed to asbestos in their jobs. While performing maintenance and repair on ships which contained asbestos parts and components, very small particles of asbestos would fly into the air where they could easily be inhaled. These fibers would also stick to their clothing and when returning home after work, their families were at risk for experiencing second hand asbestos exposure from the dust on their clothes and hair.
Modern medicine has established that there is a direct causal relationship between the inhalation of airborne asbestos fibers and the development of some form of mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma are the most common types of this asbestos cancer.Sources
NavSource Naval History. USS Fletcher (DD-992).
(http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/992.htm) Retrieved 7 March 2011.
GlobalSecurity.org USS Fletcher (DD-992).
(http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/navy/dd-992.htm) Retrieved 7 March 2011.
Department of the Navy – Naval Historical Center. USS Fletcher (DD-992).
(http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-usn/usnsh-f/dd992.htm) Retrieved 7 March 2011.