For BUCHANAN the year 1977 was one of continuous increase in nearly all aspects of the ship's combat readiness.
It began in a period characterized by major material difficulties and intensive effort by all hands to prepare the ship for an Operational Propulsion Plant Examination (OPPE). It ended with a leave and upkeep period following a highly successful WESTPAC deployment, during which BUCHANAN met all commitments in destroyer-line fashion.
The months of January and February were devoted primarily to the correction of material casualties in the engineering plant and training of engineering watch teams. Immediately after the New Year holiday period, BUCHANAN was underway in the Southern California (SOCAL) OPAREAS for boiler flexibility and engineering casualty control drills. This was followed by a ten day in-port period during which crew members from all departments joined to form "Tiger Teams", devoted to cleaning and preserving the Engineering spaces. Their efforts allowed the Engineering watch teams to conduct intensive training in engineering Operational Casualty Control (EOCC) procedures, Lube Oil Management, Valve Maintenance, and similar programs vital to the ship's propulsion plant.
On 18 January, BUCHANAN left San Diego with the Mobile Training Team (MTT) embarked for underway watch team training. The MTT identified a number of EOCC practices that required additional emphasis and assisted ship's personnel in rewriting portions of the EOCC. BUCHANAN returned to San Diego on 24 January in order to conduct final preparations for OPPE on 27 January.
The OPPE was conducted in the SOCAL OPAREAS on 27-28 January. An evaluation of unsatisfactory was assigned when BUCHANAN Engineering watch teams were unable to demonstrate acceptable casualty control proficiency. The inspecting board also pointed out a number of material casualties, which required correction prior to a successful re-examination. The ship developed and implemented a Plan of Action and Milestones to correct material and t5raining deficiencies, while still pursuing predeployment milestones, including the satisfactory completion of an Explosive Safety Inspection on 7 February, an Environmental Health Survey on 9 February, and the Combat Systems Readiness Tests (CSRT) on 11 February. On 15 February, after extensive effort in correcting material and training deficiencies, BUCHANAN was underway again for Mobile Team Training (MTT), Phase II. Progress in training during this period, coupled with successful repair of material casualties, enabled the ship to take an OPPE re-examination commencing 21 March. An evaluation of "conditional satisfactory", with no requirement for re-examination, was achieved ending a most difficult period of BUCHANAN's history.
With less than a month remaining prior to the scheduled deployment, emphasis was shifted toward final preparations for departure. On 23 March, the Supply Department successfully completed a Supply Management Inspection.
During a brief underway period from 6-7 April, BUCHANAN achieved qualification in Naval Gunfire Support (NGFS) at the San Clemente Island range.
On 12 April, BUCHANAN departed on schedule for a Western Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment. The transit west was made in company with a task group composed of COMDESRON 31 embarked in USS BAGLEY (FF 1069), USS BROOKE (FFG 1), USS ROARK (FF 1053), USS JOHN S. MCCAIN (DDG 36) and USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64), and was characterized by high-tempo training exercises. These served to increase significantly the abilities and experience of BUCHANAN personnel each department.
Upon arrival in Hawaiian waters, BUCHANAN proceeded to Barstur Missile range for missile firing exercises. Two missiles were fired successfully on 18 April against a drone and a MK 33 SEPTAR boat. Upon completion of the missile firings, BUCHANAN proceeded for a one-day visit to Pearl Harbor.
20 April, BUCHANAN departed Pearl Harbor and rejoined the transit task group enroute Subic Bay, RP. The transit training exercises continued until the evening of 23 April, when BUCHANAN went alongside USS SHASTA (AE 33) for a night replenishment.
Steam pressure in the after engineering plant was lost while alongside, necessitating an emergency breakaway. Difficulty was experienced in releasing the span wire between the two ships, and it was cut by SHASTA deck personnel. Trailing aft, the cable became wound around the port shaft, damaging the rope guard and necessitation the locking of the shaft. Repeated attempts by Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) personnel for SHASTA were unsuccessful in removing the cable at sea, resulting in BUCHANAN's being detached from the task group for independent transit to Guam for repairs.
BUCHANAN arrived in Guam on 3 May, remaining there for two weeks while the cable was removed from the port shaft, an Underwater Hull Inspection was completed, and main propulsion machinery was inspected. After successful dock and sea trials, BUCHANAN departed Guam on 16 May for independent transit to Subic Bay, arriving there on 19 May.
From 21-24 May, BUCHANAN participated in exercise MAULEX 3-77, a joint U.S.-Philippine amphibious exercise. BUCHANAN provided simulated gunfire support services and reconnaissance team insertions. Upon completion of this exercise, the ship proceeded to Kaohsiung, Taiwan to participate in exercise SHARKHUNT XXII, a joint U.S.-Taiwan surface and anti-submarine warfare exercise.
On 6 June, BUCHANAN departed Kaohsiung in transit to Subic Bay. While enroute, the successfully completed all phases of the Command Inspection conducted by COMDESRON THIRTY-ONE.
On 9 June, CDR Thomas J. TURPIN, Jr. was relieved of command of USS BUCHANAN by CDR Roger W. BARNETT in ceremonies held at Subic Bay.
BUCHANAN left Subic Bay on 18 June to participate in exercise MULTIPLEX 5-77, a major U.S. Navy exercise held in the South China Sea. BUCHANAN simulated a Soviet surface-to-surface missile firing cruiser as part of the simulated opposition forces. This exercise proved to be one of the more challenging and stimulating of the deployment. MULTIPLEX 5-77 was followed immediately on 26 June by MISSILEX 3-77, a two-day exercise during which BUCHANAN fired two TARTAR missiles with successful intercepts of airborne drones, one of which was evaluated as a direct hit.
After an upkeep period in Subic Bay from 29 June until 8 July, BUCHANAN departed for Pattaya Beach, Thailand, as the U.S. participant in SEA SIAM VI, a joint U.S.-Thai exercise designed to conduct surface and anti-air warfare training. A total of nine days were spent anchored at Pattaya Beach, a most pleasant and friendly liberty port.
On the return trip to Subic Bay from Pattaya Beach, BUCHANAN conducted a Personnel Qualification System (PQS) "Stand-up". This consisted of three days of concentrated effort directed toward individual training and qualification under the PQS system.
On 29 July, BUCHANAN arrived in Subic Bay for a twenty-four day availability. A great deal of maintenance work was accomplished during this period by the Naval Ship Repair Facility, Subic Bay.
Upon completion of the availability, BUCHANAN transited to Hong Kong for a five-day port visit from 24 to 28 August. On the return transit to Subic Bay, the ship conducted Naval Gunfire Support at the Tabones, RP range in support of spotter training. In conjunction with this training, BUCHANAN requalified six month early as a Naval Gunfire Support unit.
On 6 September, BUCHANAN left Subic Bay for the final time during the deployment, transiting North into the East China Sea as a screening unit for USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64). The task group operated in the East China Sea, with BUCHANAN providing escort and radar picket services, followed by participation in exercise MULTIPLEX 7-77 from 26-29 September. In this exercise, BUCHANAN provided escort services to USS CONSTELLATION in a simulated hostile environment.
On 3 October, BUCHANAN entered port at Fukuoka, Japan in company with USS BAGLEY (FF 1069). BUCHANAN was the third U.S. warship to visit Fukuoka in twelve years. BUCHANAN crew members proved to be excellent diplomats, the ship conducted an "open house", and crew members visited a local orphanage to play with the children and repair their recreational equipment.
Upon leaving Fukuoka on 7 October, BUCHANAN rejoined the CONSTELLATION taskgroup and transited to Yokosuka, Japan, arriving on 10 October. A two week upkeep period there was followed by participation in ASWEX J1-78, a joint U.S.-Japanese Anti-submarine Warfare exercise conducted in Northern Japanese waters from 28 October to 1 November. This exercise afforded BUCHANAN valuable training in anti-submarine warfare. A total of three submarines participated in the exercise, providing frequent detection and prosecution opportunities.
During the period 2-5 November, BUCHANAN made a final port call in the Western Pacific at Yokosuka to make preparation for the return transit to the United States. The transit was conducted as part of a USS CONSTELLATION task group.
BUCHANAN was welcomed home in San Diego on 21 November, having traveled over 40 thousand miles since departing homeport. A period of leave and upkeep began upon arrival. On 14 December BUCHANAN conducted a brief sea trial, and the year ended with a continuation of the well deserved leave and upkeep period.
Over the course of the year 1977, BUCHANAN was transferred from
a ship beset with crippling engineering difficulties into a combat ready
asset to the fleet. This was made possible only through the dedication
and consistent effort of the officers and men assigned.