USS Reuben James (FFG-57), an Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigate, is the third ship of the U.S. Navy named for Reuben James, a boatswain's mate who distinguished himself fighting the Barbary pirates. Her crew totals 201 enlisted, 18 chief petty officers and 26 officers.
Assigned to Mideast Force on her maiden deployment, Reuben James participated in twenty-two Operation Earnest Will convoy missions, serving as the convoy commander's flagship on ten of those missions. As a unit of the Pacific Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Readiness Squadron, she was a key participant in the continuing research and development of anti-submarine tactics and equipment, a fitting role in tribute to the men of the first Reuben James.
On a WestPac deployment in 1997-1998, the ship's rudder fell off. The ship docked in Bahrain for repairs.
In Malaysia, CARAT 2000 encompassed two weeks of extensive training to promote interoperability between U.S. naval forces and the Royal Malaysian Navy and Army. The Strait of Malacca was the setting for several exercises. These included anti-submarine warfare, anti-air warfare and gunnery exercises. One of the exercises was a final battle problem, or night encounter exercise. The two navies’ task groups steamed together in formation for more than 25 hours. The Malaysian-U.S. naval task group was divided into two opposing forces. The Blue Forces consisted of Reuben James, , , and the Malaysian ships, KD Sri Indera Sakti and KD Lekir. The Blue Forces were supported by U.S. helicopters from Helicopter Squadron Light 37, Detachment Four, from Hawaii. The Orange Forces consisted of the frigate , the Malaysian ships, KD Perkasa, KD Laksamana Tun Abdul Jamil, and a U.S. Navy P-3C Orion aircraft. , homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and , homeported in San Diego, also joined the task group in individual phases.
For nine months from July 2002 to April 2003, Reuben James deployed to the Persian Gulf and participated in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom as part of the Abraham Lincoln Battle Group. After serving approximately six months in theater, Reuben James started to make its way back to Pearl Harbor. At a stop in Brisbane, Australia the ship was turned around to go back to the Persian Gulf and the deployment was extended indefinitely. Finally, after an extended deployment of almost nine months, the Abraham Lincoln Battle Group was relieved by . This deployment was extremely long, breaking a number of records, including the longest deployment ever for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
In July 2003, Reuben James hosted the Japanese destroyer JDS Shimakaze (DDG 172) for exercises in Pearl Harbor. On October 23, 2003 the crew of the Reuben James dressed ship and manned the rails to render honors to President George W. Bush as he toured Pearl Harbor and visited the USS Arizona Memorial.
From February to April 2004, she deployed to the Eastern Pacific in support of counter-drug operations.
Between July and December 2004, Reuben James went through an extensive modernization and maintenance program, ensuring that she will always be ready to respond when the mission bell tolls. In October 2004, Reuben James participated in PASSEX exercises with the French frigate FS Prairial (F 371).
As part of Expeditionary Strike Group 3 (ESG 3), Reuben James deployed on February 15, 2006 on a WESTPAC mission to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The strike group also consisted of Amphibious Squadron (COMPHIBRON) 3, the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), , the guided-missile cruiser , the guided-missile destroyer , the amphibious transport dock , the dock landing ship , Tactical Air Control Squadron(TACRON) 11, and the "Black Jacks" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21.
En route to the Persian Gulf, Reuben James stopped in New Caledonia. The strike group relieved on station in early April 2006 and began its mission of conducting maritime security operations. During operations, Reuben James performed services such as providing medical assistance to Sri Lankan fishermen and rescuing Kenyan sailors. Expeditionary Strike Group 3 was relieved on July 9,2006 and Reuben James returned to Pearl Harbor in August, 2006.
Reuben James appeared in the 1990 movie, The Hunt for Red October (although her appearance in the film was anachronistic, being commissioned about a year after the events in the film), and played a significant role in the book, Red Storm Rising, both by Tom Clancy. It is one of the few US Navy ships in film history to actually portray itself.
Woody Guthrie wrote the song "The Sinking of the Reuben James" about , the first U.S. warship lost to enemy action during World War II which was torpedoed by the German submarine U-552 while on convoy escort operations. He performed the song with Pete Seeger and the other Almanac Singers. The Guthrie song has an original tune for its chorus, but its verses are set to the tune of the song "Wildwood Flower".