US Navy decommissions USS Ponce after 46 years of service

The US Navy has decommissioned its afloat forward staging base (interim) USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) in a ceremony held at Naval Station Norfolk.

USS Ponce was decommissioned on October 14, after more than 46 years of naval service.

Commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic, Rear Adm. Jesse A. Wilson Jr., provided keynote remarks.

Wilson highlighted the significance of the ceremony and ship’s significant contributions to national security.

“It is truly an honor to participate in this momentous and time honored naval tradition, as we remember the accomplishments, warfighting attitude, contributions and legacy of the USS Ponce and its sailors over the last 46 years,” said Wilson.

“It is quite an honor for me and also for the whole hybrid crew, made up of dedicated, professional sailors and civilian mariners, to take Ponce to sea and bring it home for the last time. I can’t praise this team enough for the job they have done these last years, aboard this aged warrior, in the hot and hostile seas in Fifth Fleet.”

The ship, commissioned in 1971, was the 12th and last ship in the Austin-class of amphibious transport dock ships. In 2012, the ship was refitted as an afloat forward staging base (interim). After being forward deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operation for the past five years, the “Proud Lion” returned to its homeport in September and was decommissioned Oct. 14.

Named for the Puerto Rican city of the same name, Ponce served mostly in the Atlantic Fleet, completing 27 deployments in the North Atlantic, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf.

Originally slated for decommissioning in 2011, the “Proud Lion” was refitted and reclassified, based on the USS Kitty Hawk’s (CV 63) role as an afloat special operations staging base during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001. And, she was outfitted with a joint Navy – Military Sealift Command (MSC) crew.

In 2014, Ponce successfully deployed and operated the laser weapon system (LaWS) for the first time. This 30 kilowatt cutting-edge weapon significantly expands the Navy’s viability of directed energy weapons in an operational environment, something which will offer increased levels of precision and speed for naval warfighter at a decreased cost.

During its 46-year journey, Ponce and its crews were lauded for their outstanding service, earning numerous individual and unit awards. Ponce now joins the inactive fleet and will be dismantled.

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