Movie chronicles final voyage of the USS Rodney M. Davis

EVERETT — It’s been a tradition dating back to the 1800s for the crew of a U.S. Navy vessel to publish a cruise book at the end of a tour or deployment.

One crew member of the USS Rodney M. Davis took that several steps further, and made a full-length movie documenting the frigate’s final tour.

A former journalism major who left a career in medical sales to join the Navy, Petty Officer Second Class Benny Winslow said he wanted to capture the experience of being on a naval vessel with a crew of 200.

“I wanted to get the enlisted perspective,” Winslow said. “They have the best experience because they’re bleeding every day for the ship. They’re also the most colorful.”

“I thought he did a great job putting it together and it was a good mix of both the operational and personal sides of the ship’s last deployment,” Cmdr. W. Shockey Snyder, the ship’s commanding officer, wrote in an email.

The Rodney M. Davis is one of the last Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates in the Navy. The ship was commissioned in 1987 and named for U.S. Marine Sgt. Rodney Maxwell Davis, who was killed in Vietnam in 1967 when he threw himself on a live grenade to save his platoon. Davis was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

The Navy is replacing its aging frigates with new Littoral Combat Ships.

The Davis was decommissioned Dec. 18 in a ceremony at Naval Station Everett. Navy personnel are in the process of removing equipment from the vessel, and the ship is scheduled to be towed to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton on March 30, where it will remain until it is sold to a foreign military.

On its final six-month deployment, the Davis sailed across the South Pacific and Indian Oceans and the South China Sea, stopping in eight countries along the way.

Winslow, who serves as a quartermaster aboard the Davis, brought with him a GoPro camera, a simpler point-and-shoot video camera and a DSLR still camera.

He estimates he took 400 gigabytes of photos and video, which he edited down to an 83-minute video chronicling the Davis’ final tour.

Winslow entered the film, titled “The Last Frigate,” in the annual GI Film Festival, which will be held May 18-24 in Washington, D.C.

“The Last Frigate” begins in December 2013, when the crew of the Davis was busy cleaning up and repairing the ship for its voyage.

The Davis had come out of a repair yard in San Diego, Winslow said, “had been sitting in Puget Sound for 18 months, just rusting.”

The crew, about 75 percent of whom were new and had never been on a deployment, had to get the ship back into service.

“We inherited this 30-year-old rust bucket and we made it into a legit warship that sailed halfway around the world,” Winslow said.

The film combines still photography with video, music, narration and interviews with crew members.

Winslow initially burned about 150 copies of the video to DVD to hand out to the crew, and also uploaded the entire video in 11 parts to his channel on YouTube.

The Davis took part in the large RIMPAC security exercise off Hawaii, conducted security exercises with the navies of Indonesia and the Maldives, conducted training exercises with the Royal Brunei Navy, and conducted “presence” operations in the South China Sea, Snyder wrote.

The crew also took part in public outreach programs, such as visiting a disciplinary home for boys in Singapore, where the crew played soccer with the residents.

For much of the time, the Davis sailed independently of a carrier group or larger squadron of Navy vessels, Winslow said.

“Usually a frigate is a missile sponge or a torpedo sponge for a carrier,” he said. “We were just completely independent. It was awesome.”

See more of “The Last Frigate” on Winslow’s YouTube channel.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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