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Families Worry as USS Groves Takes Over For USS Stark

May 22, 1987

MAYPORT NAVAL STATION, Fla. (AP) _ Navy officials met with the families of crewmen on the USS Stephen W. Groves to reassure them after the Pentagon ordered the guided missile frigate to fill in for the damaged USS Stark.

″We’re worried. Everyone is worried,″ said Sandra Bechtold, whose husband, Chief Petty Officer Stephen Bechtold, is assigned to the Groves and on his last tour of duty.

″But I believe in the ship they are on,″ she said Thursday. ″I believe everyone is competent and that they are safe. I feel comfortable with that.″

The Groves was ordered Thursday to extend its tour of duty with the Mideast Task Force by two months. It will not return home to this North Florida base until August, the Pentagon said in a brief statement.

Its sister ship, the Stark, was hit by two Iraqi missiles in a mistaken attack Sunday, and 37 men were killed.

The families of crewmen aboard the Groves met Wednesday with base officials and the commander’s wife, said Dr. Eric Casas of the Family Service Center at Mayport.

″We told them that what happened (to the Stark) was not an everyday occurrence,″ Casas said Thursday. ″Their normal reaction was anxiety. We reminded them that the Navy would take care of them.″

For Mrs. Bechtold, the announcement of the extended duty was not unexpected.

″I want my husband home, naturally,″ she said. ″But I kind of figured they would extend the Groves’ tour.″

The Groves left Florida for Persian Gulf duty Feb. 5, the same day the Stark left port, and was originally scheduled to return June 15. The date of the Stark’s return depends on repairs, according to the Pentagon.

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