SASEBO, Japan (NNS) -- Avenger Class Mine Countermeasures ship USS Guardian (MCM 5) concluded 23 years of service to the Navy during a decommissioning ceremony March 6 at Naval Base Sasebo, Japan.
The 79 Guardian crewmembers participated in the event held to signify the end of an era and to honor the legacy that Guardian has left behind.
"Today, we honor the service of our ship and of your service to our nation," said Lt. Cmdr. Mark Rice, commanding officer, USS Guardian.
Guardian, which ran aground on the Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines on Jan. 17, is beyond economical repair and is being dismantled.
"I am particularly proud to be here amongst the Guardian crew, who performed heroically, guarded by their namesake, to save each other," said Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, commander, Amphibious Force U.S. Seventh Fleet "It's Sailors like you who made success possible. The hard work behind the scenes, your inspiring confidence, espirit de corps and your pride in your ship did not go unnoticed."
Over the years, Guardian played an integral role in conducting several real-world mine neutralizations and search and rescue missions in the Arabian Gulf. The ship was also involved in several bi-lateral exercises with the navies of Japan and the Republic of Korea throughout the Seventh Fleet area of responsibility, since becoming a forward-deployed Naval asset in 1996.
While assigned to 5th Fleet, Guardian was the first mine countermeasure ship to perform a crew swap. That swap established standards still in practice today. As a 7th Fleet Forward Deployed Naval asset, Guardian was one of the four mine countermeasure ships to have a permanent crew.
"The memories that we shared together on Guardian are ones that I will always hold dear as I remember this fine crew and what we were able to accomplish together," said Rice. "This has been the most rewarding tour that I've had during my short time in the Navy and that is a tribute to these Sailors standing here today."
Guardian's awards include a Navy Unit Commendation, two Meritorious Unit Commendations, a Combat Action Ribbon, the Southwest Asia Service Medal and six Battle Efficiency awards.
USS Warrior (MCM 10) will deploy to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to replace Guardian.
For more news from Commander, Amphibious Force, U.S. 7th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/ctf76/.