The USS O’Brien (DD-975) served in the U.S. Navy for over two and a half decades in the late 20th century and early 21st century. She was named for Captain Jeremiah O’Brien who served during the American Revolutionary War. O’Brien was commissioned as a Spruance-class destroyer.
O’Brien was laid down at Pascagoula, Mississippi by the Litton Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation in May 1975, launched in July 1976, and commissioned in December 1977 with Commander James J. Mullen in command. Supporting a crew complement of 296, O’Brien was 563 feet in length, with a displacement of 7,800 tons, and 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. She was driven by four gas turbines supporting a cruising speed of 30 knots and a range of 6,000 nautical miles at 20 knots.
O’Brien operated along the west coast in the early 1980s and was deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1988. During this deployment, O’Brien operated as a unit of the Joint Task Force, Middle East and engaged in combat with Iranian naval forces during Operation Praying Mantis in April. She also aided in the sinking of Iranian guided missile frigate Sahand. O’Brien was then deployed to the waters around Taiwan for military exercises, which included missile tests and firing exercises.
O’Brien participated in a joint United States/Republic of Korea exercise in the Sea of Japan in November 1993, and was then assigned to Destroyer Squadron 15 in 1995. The destroyer was part of another maritime exercise off Japan in 1998, which involved the U.S. Navy and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force, and visited Hong Kong in 1999.
O’Brien joined Kitty Hawk and Chancellorsville for Exercise Cobra Gold 2000 in May 2000, which involved elements of the United States and Thai militaries. The destroyer then commenced her own routines in the western Pacific, spent five weeks at Yokosuka, and then participated in an anti-ship missile defense training exercise off Japan in February 2002. Decommissioned in September 2004, O’Brien was sunk as a training target off Hawaii in February 2006.
Asbestos Risk on the USS O'Brien (DD-975)
O’Brien was built at the end of the asbestos era. Regulations regarding asbestos use were passed in the years after she was built, and the dangers the mineral posed were well understood even as she was constructed. As a result, the overall asbestos risk on this vessel is less than on ships built even a few years earlier.
There were still significant quantities of asbestos aboard this ship. Because the mineral was inexpensive and extraordinarily efficient as insulation and fireproofing, it was difficult to replace with other materials. Engineering spaces were a likely source of exposure, as was any compartment containing heavy machinery or steam pipes. There is no “safe” level of asbestos exposure; sailors that encountered asbestos on this ship face the same potential health risks as those that served earlier.
Mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases often have a long latency period. That means that veterans of O’Brien are still at risk today. Disclosing your potential asbestos exposure and Navy service to your physician can help ensure that any asbestos-related ailment is detected promptly. As with many other cancers, early diagnosis often provides the best treatment outcomes for patients with mesothelioma.Sources