U.S.S. Schofield FFG-3 (Guided Missile Frigate)
U.S.S. Schofield was a Brooke class guided missile frigate, built by the Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction Company in Seattle, Washington, and commissioned into the Navy in 1968.
After shakedown and training operations, Schofield joined the fleet off Vietnam in 1969, the first of four deployments the ship would make to the war zone. Serving as a radar picket ship for the carrier groups, a rescue ship for downed airmen, and as a gunfire support ship for operations against shore batteries and other targets, Schofield would be awarded four combat stars for operations during the Vietnam Conflict.
Later in 1969, Schofield and members of its crew participated in the rescue of a stricken tanker, which had issued distress calls reporting it in a sinking condition. Dispatching assistance via helicopters as it raced to the scene, Schofield arrived at the stricken vessel to find the situation had been controlled, largely due to the efforts of the frigate’s crewmen.
By 1974, Schofield, as with other US Naval assets, found its WESTPAC cruises being extended to the Indian Ocean as the US Navy increased its surveillance efforts in that theater, largely due to the emergence of India and Pakistan as nuclear powers and the increasing tensions in the Persian Gulf.
Schofield continued to operate with the Pacific fleet, interspersed with maintenance availabilities and overhaul periods, throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s.
As with the other ships of the Brooke class, Schofield suffered throughout its career with propulsion problems, usually problems with the ship’s boilers. These issues and high operating costs caused the class to be retired after only twenty years or so, a considerably shorter service life than the large carriers they were built to support. By the late 1980s, the class was largely obsolete.
Accordingly, U.S.S. Schofield was decommissioned in 1988. Originally scheduled to be scrapped, the ship was sunk in support of a fleet exercise in late 1999.
Asbestos Exposure on U.S.S. Schofield
As with the other ships of the Brooke class, and all ships of its day, U.S.S. Schofield was built at a time when asbestos was heavily used in ship construction. Materials used in the Schofield which were manufactured from or contained asbestos were present throughout the ship. Boilers were lined with asbestos, and many other components were manufactured from the material due to its excellent resistance to heat. Brake and clutch linings, used for winches and capstans, contained asbestos. So did exhaust plenums, fire dampers, valve packing, deck tiles, overhead tiles, cements and epoxies, pipe dope, paints and solvents and fire curtains.
Asbestos cloth was used to manufacture the lagging which was wrapped around pipes throughout the ship to provide thermal insulation. This lagging was present throughout the ship, within every compartment and space, often in hard to see or reach areas. Deterioration of the paint or the insulation itself would allow the asbestos to release fibers into the air, where it would be freely distributed throughout the ship by ventilation or contact with clothing. Often such areas would be undetected for lengthy periods.
Of the Brooke class frigates, those that have been scrapped have been awarded to companies overseas, so the amount of asbestos present in these ships at the time of their decommissioning has been impossible to quantify.