USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) is the U.S. Navy's 18th Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer and is named after the five Sullivan brothers; George, Francis, Joseph, Madison and Albert who were killed in action aboard the USS Juneau (CL 52) during the battle of Guadalcanal. The keel was laid down on June 14, 1993, at Bath, Maine, by Bath Iron Works Co.; The ship was christened and launched on August 12, 1995; sponsored by Kelly Sullivan Loughren, granddaughter of Albert Leo Sullivan; and commissioned at Staten Island, N.Y., on April 19, 1997; Cmdr. Gerard D. Roncolato is the first commanding officer.
On April 26, The Sullivans departed New York for Norfolk where, after arriving on the 27th, the crew completed underway replenishment qualifications with Platte (AO 186). The guided-missile destroyer then sailed for Naval Station Mayport on April 29th and arrived in its new homeport on May 2.
After completing two days of gunnery trials in mid-May, DDG 68 embarked upon her shakedown deployment to the West Indies on May 27. That cruise took it to the waters off Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, where the ship conducted numerous sonar, gunnery, and torpedo exercises. USS The Sullivans also twice entered Roosevelt Roads and stopped once at St. Thomas for port visits. On June 29, she conducted test firings of Standard SM-2 ER missiles from its vertical launch system (VLS). After a brief stop at Mayport for the 4th of July weekend, she joined other U.S. Navy ships off the Virginia Capes for a multiple-ship missile firing exercise. The Sullivans returned to Mayport on July 12 for upkeep.
Following three days of damage control exercises in mid-August, the crew began preparations for a Post Shakedown Availability (PSA). She sailed for Maine on September 3rd, arriving at Bath Iron Works on the 5th. The shipyard repainted the hull, altered the superstructure, and installed equipment upgrades in the engineering plant and combat systems suite. When the yard work was completed the destroyer got underway for Naval Station Mayport, arriving there on Nov. 23.
On Dec. 8, USS The Sullivans joined USS Enterprise off the coast of Georgia for a week of underway training. While providing plane guard services on the 11th, a McDonnell Douglas T-45A trainer ("Goshawk") splashed following take-off. The Sullivans made a high-speed dash to the site. While the carrier's rescue helicopter safely rescued the pilot, boats launched by the destroyer picked up considerable pieces of wreckage which were helpful in determining the cause of the crash. The crew also completed helicopter deck landing qualifications before returning to port for the holidays on the 12th.
In January 1998, the crew of USS The Sullivans began a series of exercises designed "to build the capability for long-term self-sustained training onboard." This included engineering, combat, seamanship, and battle scenario training exercises. These local operations lasted until May 18, when the warship got underway for New York and the annual "Fleet Week" celebrations.
Following a week long port visit, DDG 68 got underway on May 26 for Halifax, Nova Scotia, to conduct training workups for the upcoming Exercise Unified Spirit '98. During the exercise it joined an amphibious task force formed around Nassau (LHA 4), two LPDs, and two LSDs. The warship screened the "Gator" ships during an exercise focusing on multi-national peace enforcement operations. Ships from Canada, Great Britain, Germany, France, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, and Portugal also participated in the exercise. After this exercise, the ship visited Boston and then sailed with relatives and family for Naval Station Mayport, arriving on July 1.