NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The amphibious assault ship USS Austin (LPD 4) was decommissioned Sept. 27, during a ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk, ending more than 41 years of naval service.
"We are one of the oldest, best ships in the fleet and its time to turn over the watch," said Cmdr. Kevin Flanagan, Austin's commanding officer.
Commissioned Feb. 6, 1965, Austin was the first LPD class ship built, and the lead ship in its class. The ship was involved in the nation's space program as the recovery ship for Apollo 12, and part of the recovery for Apollo 14 and 15. Austin was also the test platform for a wide range of expeditionary warfare systems entering the fleet, including: MH-53 helicopter, precursors of the present day landing craft air cushion (LCAC) and the U.S. Marine Corps AV-8 Harrier jets.
"To be a part of the Austin's legacy is amazing," said Seaman (SW) Roberto Santiago, a member of Austin's deck department. "To know that I was an Austin Sailor, and decommissioned a ship is a really good experience. I'm going to be sad to see the crew split apart, as we were a really tight group."
Austin returned to Norfolk May 4, after completing a successful six-month deployment as an element of the USS Nassau (LHA 4) Expeditionary Strike Group, where the ship deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of maritime security operations (MSO).
"We are here to celebrate the Sailors and Marines that served on board," said Austin's commanding officer, "all of their accomplishments and dedication to their country."
The new amphibious transport dock USS San Antonio (LPD 17) will be taking over for Austin.
"I can't think of a better ship to turn the watch over to than the USS San Antonio," said Flanagan. "They have a fine commanding officer and a fine crew. It's a day to celebrate not a day to cry."
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