US sailor returns to port his grandfather emigrated from 96 years ago
Published 25/10/2016 | 02:30
It was a homecoming with a difference as a US Navy officer proudly returned to the Irish port from which his grandfather emigrated 96 years earlier.
Executive Officer (XO) John Tobin, second in command on the multi-million-dollar destroyer USS Porter, admitted it was a visit with a very special meaning for him in Cobh, Co Cork.
His grandfather, also called John, emigrated from Cork to Rhode Island in the United States in 1920.
It is believed he sailed from the same Cobh dockside alongside which the USS Porter berthed on Sunday evening. The family later moved to Chicago where Mr Tobin hails from.
"Yes, it is a proud moment to be able to visit Cork like this," he said.
"We are very proud of our Irish connections in my family and I visited Ireland five years ago with my wife, Susan, and did some touring of the country.
"All Americans who have Irish roots in their family are very proud of them."
Mr Tobin and the 280-strong crew of the USS Porter are based in Spain, where they form part of a four-destroyer detachment for the US Navy's Sixth Fleet.
USS Porter, commanded by Captain Andria Slough, is berthed in Cobh as part of a four-day goodwill visit.
Captain Slough paid tribute to the Irish Naval Service and said that, while USS Porter had not yet worked with Irish vessels, she hoped to do so sometime in the future, possibly on humanitarian support missions.
"We have not engaged with them yet, but that does not mean we won't sometime in the future," she said.
As part of the goodwill visit, Naval Service officers visited the ship for courtesy calls.
A key element of the USS Porter's deployment is to foster good relations and co-operation with European navies.
Prior to visiting Cork, the destroyer had undertaken exercises with European navies including vessels from the UK, Spain, France, Germany and Norway.
During its Irish visit, the crew will be allowed to undertake tours and cultural exchanges in Cork.
These ranged from shopping trips in Cork city to visits to Blarney Castle, Fota Island and the Jameson Heritage Centre in Midleton.
Ensign McKenzie Anderson said the crew were delighted to be able to visit Ireland.
"It is great to see new countries," he said.
The USS Porter is an Arleigh-Burke class destroyer, built in Mississippi, and was commissioned as the 28th vessel in its class.
More than 100 destroyers of the type have been built over the past 40 years.
The ship, named after US Navy officers Commodore David Porter and Admiral David Dixon Porter, was commissioned in 1999 and boasts one of the most active careers of any US ship.
The destroyer was involved in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, anti-piracy missions off Somalia, Arctic patrols with the Canadian navy and patrols of the Persian Gulf.
Boasting a crew of 280, the ship is capable of 30 knots.
It is equipped with two helicopters, with its primary armament being Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The destroyer can also launch Harpoon anti-ship and anti-armour missiles.
Its air defence system revolves around the powerful AN/SPY radar and a battery of missiles and 54mm and 25mm guns.
The destroyer is based in southern Spain and normally undertakes a four-month deployment in either the North Atlantic or the Mediterranean.
The families of the ship's crew are also based in Spain.