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Destroyer Cruises Into Town

The USS Stethem, open for weekend tours, carries the most advanced radar and three types of missile launching systems.


When was the last time you boarded a Navy destroyer for a stroll around its gleaming decks and a glimpse at its high-tech weaponry?

You can do it this weekend when the USS Stethem cruises into Port Hueneme for the 10th Seabee Summerfest. The ship, one of the Navy's newest guided missile destroyers, will be all spruced up for tours Saturday and Sunday.

The ship's visit is the highlight of this free two-day festival, which is a chance for the Seabees at Port Hueneme's Naval Construction Battalion Center to show off their military know-how and equipment.

"It's special for the port to have a ship in for tours, and the Stethem is a fantastic ship to tour," said Linda Wadley, spokeswoman for the Seabee base.

The USS Stethem, cruising in Friday from its San Diego home base, will be open for tours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

The $900-million destroyer, commissioned into the Navy less than a year ago, was developed to protect aircraft carriers and other battle groups. On the tour, visitors will see some of its weaponry: three types of missile launching systems, two kinds of torpedoes, and high-tech guns capable of targeting anything that sneaks past long-range defenses.


What sets the ship apart from older destroyers is its space-age technology, according to Navy stats. It carries the Navy's most advanced radar, designed to scan all directions simultaneously and track the movements of hundreds of aircraft and missiles. If the ship is attacked, its computers can automatically fire missiles and other weapons.

The ship, 505 feet long, can travel faster than 30 knots. Members of the crew--some of whom will lead tours and explain the ship's workings--has 27 officers and 318 enlisted personnel.

The USS Stethem was commissioned into the Navy last October at the Seabee base during a sometimes-tearful gala event: The ship is named after Robert Dean Stethem, a Seabee diver killed by terrorists during the hijacking of a TWA airliner to Beirut in 1985. Stethem trained at Port Hueneme but never was stationed there.

The Seabees, sometimes overshadowed by the Navy's other base at Point Mugu, build everything from barracks to runways for the Navy and Marines. Four construction battalions (hence, CBs, or Seabees) are located at the Port Hueneme base.

If you want a bird's-eye view of the base, you can hop in the Navy's hot-air balloon, which will glide above the festival grounds on a tether.

If a harbor view is more to your liking, you can board a Navy tugboat and chug around the harbor. Riders must be at least 8 years old.

Saturday's events start at 10 a.m. with a parade featuring Navy equipment. The carnival runs both days, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.


Here's the entertainment lineup: On Saturday, local band Yahman plays reggae music at 11 a.m., followed by Sweet Country at noon, which includes a dance demonstration; Sunday features the blues music of Cynthia Manley at noon and 1 p.m, magic by Dan Ray at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and pop sounds by Ska-Daddyz at 3 and 4 p.m.

Zany contests run both days. The biggest, the Star Spangled Baby competition (11:45 a.m. Sunday), has pulled in more than 150 entries in the past. It's open to babies under 2 years, who must be dressed in red, white and blue. The winners win cash prizes.

Here are some other contests: On Saturday, California Snakeboard (similar to skateboard) at 11 a.m.; Hula Hoop (you must be 18) at 11:15 a.m.; and karaoke at 2:45 p.m.; Sunday, craziest pet tricks at 3:45 p.m. During the two days, competitions in basketball, roller hockey, sand volleyball and golf will be ongoing. There'll be a car show Sunday.


* WHAT: Seabee Summerfest.

* WHEN: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday.

* WHERE: Naval Construction Battalion Center in Port Hueneme. Use the Pleasant Valley gate at the end of Pleasant Valley Road, near its intersection with Ventura Road.

* HOW MUCH: Free admission, parking and tours; for carnival, contests and sports competition, charges vary.

* FYI: 982-2057. For contest information, 982-3585; for sports competitions, 982-5173. Registration for some sports events has closed. Other contests may have registration limits and may be closed.

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