ABOARD USS DOLPHIN (NNS) -- USS Dolphin (AGSS 555) completed her final cruise Sept. 9 when she tied to the pier at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center San Diego.
During the underway, the diesel-electric powered test and research submarine made her 1,560th and final dive to a depth exceeding 3,000 ft.
"It's bittersweet," said Chief of the Boat, Master Chief Missile Technician Joe Eller. "Last night, we sat up on the bridge and today we drove her in. We had a good cry this morning down in the engine room. I didn't think I would miss it, but I will miss it."
The submarine was commissioned in 1968 and is the sixth oldest ship in the fleet. Dolphin was designed for research, development, test and evaluation and is one of the world's deepest diving submarines with a maximum operating depth in excess of 3,000 ft.
"It's got its ups and downs, like any boat in the fleet, but we've got to do some things here that you couldn't do anywhere else," said Machinist's Mate 2nd Class (SS) Justin Newsome.
Among many milestones, the ship launched a torpedo from the deepest depth ever recorded, developed a highly accurate target management system, and achieved the first two-way laser communication between a submarine and an aircraft.
Equal to the submarine's history of research, test, development and evaluation is the ship's nonpareil camaraderie.
"This boat is more like a family I think than any other ship because everyone knows everyone else," said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class (SS) Mark Mundwiller.
This underway is one of the last times these Sailors will work with their shipmates aboard the Dolphin. Already, members of the crew are transferring to new commands and schools and more will be gone in the coming weeks.
"Being out with the ship is good... I'm here for this, but I won't be here for the decommissioning," said Electronics Technician 2nd Class (SS) Mario Hose. "I'd like to stay for that."
"The camaraderie of the crew was so much greater than anywhere else I've ever been," said retired Chief Warrant Officer Bill Sutter. "Dolphin I rode many times and the crews all had that same camaraderie. The names may be different but the spirit of the crew has always held true."
Sutter and his wife Patricia felt such a bond to the ship and her crew that she requested that her ashes be dispersed at sea from the ship when she died. Thirty years ago she was, but she left her most prized necklace and bracelet behind with a request to have the crew return them to her resting place at sea during the ship's last underway prior to it being decommissioned. Dolphin's crew fulfilled this request during this underway.
"It took a lot of committment from a lot of people to meet this obligation, and today," Sutter added, "we've closed the circle."
For more news from around the fleet, visit www.navy.mil.