For BUCHANAN, the year 1978 was one in which significant progress was made in all areas of material and combat readiness. The ship came under the close scrutiny of almost every major inspection team or examining board in the Pacific Fleet and participated in every type of exercise expected of a surface combatant. in addition, BUCHANAN underwent several productive upkeep periods ranging from relatively minor ship-to-shop availabilities to an extensive Planned Restricted Availability.
The month of January was devoted primarily to preparations for a visit from the Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV). After a well deserved post-deployment holiday leave period, the BUCHANAN crew returned on the first of the year to prepare for INSURV. Preparations included in in-depth review of the CSMP, extensive ship's force work to correct discrepancies and thorough documentation of those deficiencies known to exist that would be present at the time of the inspection. Included in these preparations was a day at sea period 24-25 JAN for a final examination of operating equipment by ship's force prior to the arrival of the Board. These efforts, in addition to the continuing programs of the previous year to upgrade the material condition of the ship, resulted in a "Fit for further service" determination by the Board. Espe4cially noteworthy were the comments that BUCHANAN's knowledge and documentation of discrepancies were among the best ever seen by the examiners. In addition, the hip's Electrical Safety Program was declared the best the inspector had ever examined. Another high point of the inspection was the successful completion of a full power trial.
The month of February saw BUCHANAN inport primarily occupied with the ship's force work and acting as Engineering School Ship for BT "A" School. On 27 FEB the ship got underway for the Naval Weapons Station, Seal Beach, to offload ammunition prior to the upcoming Planned Restricted Availability (PRAV).
PRAV is designed to provide an extended maintenance period to enable the ship to conduct major maintenance between regular overhauls; BUCHANAN therefore had extensive industrial work conducted on all levels from ship's force to various IMA's to civilian contractors. It was during this period that BUCHANAN corrected several lingering material problems from previous years.
Maintenance was not the only order of the day, however, for extensive ship wide training was being conducted in preparation for the July Operational Propulsion Plant Examination (OPPE) and for the April Technical Standardization Inspection (TSI). Despite this arduous schedule, BUCHANAN completed PRAV one week early and got underway for sea trials 18 April.
This marked one of the few times a ship had completed this program on time and the first time ever that a DDG had completed it early. On 19 April the Defense Nuclear Agency Inspection team arrived onboard to conduct a TSI to evaluate the capability of the ship to handle and maintain nuclear weapons. The inspection team recertified BUCHANAN for handling nuclear weapons and noted that the handling team's performance was outstanding.
On 24 April the ship was underway for two days independent operations during which extensive training in all departments was conducted. BUCHANAN was back at Seal Beach 26 April for ammunition loadout and returned to San Diego the following day to continue intensive preparation for the Operational propulsion Plant Examination (OPPE).
The first major step in OPPE preparations began with the arrival of the Mobile Training Team (MTT) on 16 May. For one week the MTT conducted Phase I training, including a thorough examination of all engineering programs, training, and material readiness of the ship. This visit culminated with a one day underway period from 18-19 May, during which all phases of propulsion plant operation were closely examined. The end of this productive week resulted in a recommendation to continue with Phase II of MTT training.
With the crew justifiably proud of their ship, BUCHANAN took the opportunity to conduct a Family Cruise on 20 May during which nearly three hundred family and guests of crewmembers were treated to a day at sea. Included were demonstrations of firepower, radar systems, tours of the ship, and a cookout on the fantail.
BUCHANAN was again underway on 22 May for a five-day independent transit to Seattle. This period was primarily devoted to conducting engineering casualty control (ECC) drills and continuing preparations for the upcoming OPPE. After a productive week of training, the arrived in Seattle for a three-day Memorial Day weekend visit.
BUCHANAN left Seattle on 30 May enroute to San Diego with MTT again embarked while conducting Phase II Training. For five days ECC drills were conducted on all watch sections and observed by the MTT. At the end of this period of intensive training the decision was taken, based on MTT recommendation to postpone the OPPE for two weeks in order to allow for further ECC training. As a result, BUCHANAN returned to San Diego on 03 June with the OPPE rescheduled for 12 July.
Final preparations continued through June and July for the OPPE. In addition to stringent training and presentation efforts, two further at-sea periods were conducted on 19-23 June and 5-7 July with MTT assists. By the conclusion of the second MTT visit BUCHANAN was fully ready for the OPPE.
The Propulsion Examining Board (PEB) arrived 12 July to conduct the three-day OPPE. During the next few days all phases of engineering admin, management, material and training were closely examined. BUCHANAN received an evaluation of "conditionally satisfactory, re-examination not required". It was noteworthy that all admin programs were declared effective and the ability of each watch sections to conduct ECC drills evaluated as outstanding. Within four weeks all discrepancies noted had been corrected, and on 12 September the final evaluation was upgraded to full satisfactory.
After a brief upkeep period, BUCHANAN was again underway for Type Training (TYT), 25-28 July in preparation for COMPTUEX 3-78. Then for five days from 7-11 August the ship participated in an intensive and rewarding exercise period during which all phases of combat and material readiness were tested. At the completion of this week the combat readiness of the ship and increased markedly in all mission areas and BUCHANAN had requalified in Naval Gunfire Support at San Clemente Island.
After a short stay in port, BUCHANAN was underway on 17 August to participate in FLEETEX 2-78 as a member of the "ORANGE" forces. FLEETEX 2-78 offered a real world war-at-sea environment. Assigned forces included participants from Canada, Great Britain, and New Zealand. Following this almost two months of continuous operations on 29 August BUCHANAN began an eight-week period of maintenance and upkeep in San Diego.
September proved to be one of the most demanding and challenging months of the year. Included in the two-week period 18-29 September, were the Supply Material Inspection (SMI), the Type Commander Annual Planned Maintenance Systems (PMS) Inspection, and a Surprise Nuclear Technical Proficiency Inspection (NTPI). Each of these is a major undertaking; each was passed with flying colors. The performance of the crew during each inspection was truly superb and was vital to the especially high grades achieved on both the SMI and surprise NTPI.
By 23 October BUCHANAN was ready for sea as a participant in COMPTUEX 2-79. This exercise served as a valuable refresher course in Destroyer operations after two months in port, as well as significantly improving BUCHANAN's combat readiness in almost every mission area.
Following an inport weekend in San Diego, BUCHANAN departed for Mazatlan, Mexico and commenced in intensive training program during the four day transit, including Engineering Casualty Control Drills and preparations for the approaching Interim Refresher Training (IRFT) period.
On Sunday night, 5 November, BUCHANAN helped Mexican authorities extinguish a large waterfront fire involving several hundred bales of cotton. The quick reaction of the crew in controlling this very dangerous blaze earned messages of gratitude and commendation from US DAO, Mexico City, and the local U.S. Consul.
The days of 10-19 November were spent in a ship's force upkeep as final touches were applied for Interim Refresher Training (IRFT). A busy and rewarding two week period began 20 November in which BUCHANAN demonstrated her combat readiness through numerous drills, two battle problems, and several seamanship evolutions. The highlight of IRFT occurred when BUCHANAN requalified in Naval Gunfire Support in one day-the first time IRFT observers had observed this feat. IRFT was broken for Thanksgiving, and on 25-26 November for visit ship at the Broadway Pier in San Diego.
On the Monday following the IRFT Final Battle Problem, BUCHANAN got underway as a unit of the "BLUE" forces for FLEETEX 1-79. This major exercise was conducted in the Southern California Operation Areas from 14-15 December, and was climaxed by a MISSILEX, and honed BUCHANAN's readiness for the forthcoming deployment to WESTPAC.
BUCHANAN returned to San Diego for the Christmas holidays and a well-deserved rest. The only significant event during the rest of the month of December was the Command Inspection by COMDESRON THIRTY-ONE, which was passed without significant discrepancy.
It was a very different BUCHANAN on 31 December than on 1 January of the same year. The problems of years past were finally laid to rest and the promise of the future became a reality. In this busy, arduous and demanding year BUCHANAN justly earned the respect of the ships and men of the Pacific Fleet. Each inspection, underway date, and required even was conducted on time and correctly. At the end of the competitive cycle, BUCHANAN had met or exceeded the requirements for every applicable type commander departmental award for excellence and was nominated for type commander's Anti-Air Warfare Award. BUCHANAN's reenlistment rate for the year for first term reenlistments was far better than other Squadron ships and one of the very best any Cruiser-Destroyer Force attained; success in this area of vital interest led to BUCHANAN's nomination for the Golden Anchor Award for outstanding retention. For BUCHANAN, this was an especially good year.