Hundreds of people got permission to come aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) during free public tours Sunday. After the ship dropped anchor Thursday off the Santa Barbara Harbor, crew members have participated in Veterans Day weekend events and opened the vessel up to visitors.
Sunday’s tour groups were ferried out by tugboats to the 500-foot ship from Sea Landing, but several tours were canceled after one of the two tenders broke down Sunday afternoon. Some visitors waited for hours in hopes of going out to the vessel and crews worked until 6 p.m. Sunday to make it happen for as many people as possible. With the delay, some visitors were treated to a beautiful sunset from the ship’s deck.
One of the tugboats remains out of commission for Monday, forcing the cancellation of half of the tours, a Sea Landing employee said. All the tours scheduled on the hour or half-hour — 9 a.m., 9:30 a.m., etc. — are canceled, while the tours scheduled a quarter after or a quarter to the hour — 9:15 a.m., 9:45 a.m., etc. — remain on schedule. The last tour will be at 3:15 p.m., and all tours were sold out as of Sunday.
Sea Landing can be reached at 805.963.3564.
The Milius is scheduled to depart Tuesday.
The USS Milius is named after Cmdr. Paul Milius, a Navy pilot shot down in the Vietnam War. When Milius’ plane was hit by enemy fire during a mission over Laos, he ordered his seven crewmates to bail out while he maintained control of the aircraft. All of the crew was rescued, but Milius was never found. He was later classified as presumed killed in action and was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously.
One of Sunday’s guides, Ensign Matt Kirby, said Milius’ actions also inspired the ship’s motto: Alii Prae Me or “Others Before Self.”
The Arleigh Burke-class AEGIS guided-missile destroyer is part of the Fifth Fleet, deployed to the Persian Gulf area. Destroyers are used as part of a squadron that includes aircraft carriers, submarines and frigates, and they assist ground troops and participate in anti-aircraft, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare. The ships can also detect and track ballistic missiles of all ranges.
As the gunnery officer, Kirby had detailed insight into the ship’s many weapons. He pointed out the missiles, mounted guns and heavily armed “rover” crew members who patrol the decks, alert for suspicious activity.
The Milius is very maneuverable to address threats and help ground troops, Kirby said. It’s so agile that, should someone fall overboard, the engines are pushed to full throttle and the ship quickly flips around to go back, he said. The goal is to get to the person in need within five minutes, Kirby said.
Navigator Alex Smith said the ship has 100,000 horsepower and can travel at speeds in excess of 30 knots per hour, or 34.6 mph.
“That’s why we have so much power,” he said. “And it’s fun to go fast.”
Even going “fast” without stops, the crew of 274 has a 25-day trip from its San Diego base to deployment in the Persian Gulf. In those long stretches, Kirby joked that the captain “drives it like she stole it,” at 30 knots with sharp turns.
Kirby is also a member of the Visit, Board, Search and Seizure team, which boards smuggler or pirate vessels. Usually, the destroyer pulls up and the questionable seamen start dumping whatever goods they have overboard and pull out fishing poles. When they’re boarded and questioned, they claim the dumping was of bad fish, Kirby said.
“They’re smart enough to know, it’s a big ship and big guns — don’t shoot a 9 millimeter at it,” said Kirby, who acknowledged he had to admit that, if they did, it would make his day. One of the many guns he supervises can shoot 100 rounds in less than a second.
Beyond its formidable presence, the destroyer obviously has multiple layers of protections. There are people on watch every second of the day and night, different radar systems, mounted guns and heavily armed “rovers,” and specific anti-missile methods. There are rounds to distract, deter or shoot enemy missiles out of the sky.
While it was anchored just off of Santa Barbara’s waterfront, however, the ship ran up its “friendship lights” stretching from bow to stern to designate it’s in a friendly port.
There are more public tours Monday leaving from Sea Landing, 301 W. Cabrillo Blvd. Call 805.963.3564 for more information.