NORFOLK (NNS) -- The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Norfolk (SSN 714) was decommissioned Dec. 11 during a ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk. The submarine will remain in Norfolk until in leaves in January to begin the decommissioning process at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine.
Norfolk is currently under the command of Cmdr. Christopher Polk, who became the submarine's 17th and final commanding officer during a ceremony on Oct. 10, 2014.
"Anyone who has ever served in the Navy understands there is a special bond between a ship and her crew," said Polk. "With every one of the ship's successes, and the occasional failure, we live and die. While on board, we experience the full spectrum of emotions - happiness and/sadness, joy and anger, and confidence and fear. We love her, we curse her; we feel out of place, we feel right at home. But through it all, our spirits breathe life into this ship.
"None of us want to acknowledge the inevitable, least of all me. The ship has a particularly special place in my heart since I was fortunate enough to previously serve on board as a department head and I still consider that assignment as the turning point in my naval career. Without my Norfolk experience, I never would have achieved my ultimate goals of command at sea and command of the Norfolk."
The 360-foot submarine is the third naval ship to be named in honor of its namesake city of Norfolk, Virginia. It was built by Newport News Shipbuilding and was commissioned May 21, 1983 by then Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger. Norfolk was also the Navy's 133rd nuclear-powered submarine, the 89th attack submarine, and the 24th Los Angeles-class submarine.
In addition to Polk, Mayor Paul Fraim, city of Norfolk, retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Joseph J. Krol, Norfolk's second commanding officer and former associate administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration's Office of Emergency Operations, and Capt. Paul Snodgrass, commander, Submarine Squadron 6 were the featured speakers.
"It is a real thrill for me to be here today, as we honor this crew and all who sailed before them on USS Norfolk," said Krol. "I am a Norfolk Sailor and just one of more than 1,000 submariners who have served on board the ship. Thank you, captain, for inviting me to participate, as I am very proud to have been a small part of the accomplishments produced by those who have sailed on this magnificent ship.
"It has always been fashionable to say that a successful Naval vessel is a great ship, and I have always thought that a strange expression. But, Norfolk has been and is a great ship. However, it is not the ship which has delivered so much success over the past 31-plus years. Norfolk joined the fleet on May 21, 1983 and was a key player during the huge transition in submarine warfare that has spanned her entire life. She was designed and constructed as primarily an anti-submarine warfare platform but that all changed from the bipolar Cold War to today's chaotic and unpredictable asymmetrical war involving various state supported and non-state actors worldwide.
"The crews that sailed Norfolk in 31-plus established a huge legacy were at the forefront of this development change. Throughout the vast changes in the military and the Navy that have taken place since the Cold War ended, this ship has soldiered on and delivered. The only way this could have happened is through the efforts every day of every year by the crews that manned this ship."
The ship returned from its maiden deployment in the Mediterranean Sea in November 1984 and returned to its homeport in Norfolk from its last deployment on Aug. 26, 2014, where it operated in the European Command and Central Command areas of responsibilities.
"It is an honor for me to have this rare opportunity to represent the city at USS Norfolk's decommissioning ceremony," said Fraim. "To each of you who presently serve on-board Norfolk, and to all who have had the privilege of serving in the past, please know how very proud we are that your boat was named for this city and proud that it has sailed around the world in defense of the freedom we are so blessed to enjoy here at home.
"Norfolk and her citizens are fiercely proud of our military heritage, proud of our relationship with the Navy, and proud that we have had the privilege of giving more than most cities in defense of our nation. For 31 years, your boat has sailed the world's oceans carrying our city's name through times of war and times of peace. On behalf of the citizens of Norfolk, thank you to all who have served our nation on-board USS Norfolk. We will never forget her or you."
During its 31 years of active service, Norfolk completed 15 deployments to the North Atlantic, Mediterranean Sea, U.S. Central Command and U.S. European Command. The ship has received six Battle Efficiency awards; two Arleigh Burke awards; four Meritorious Unit Commendations; a Navy Unit Commendation; and two Armed Forces Service Medals.
"It is a true honor to attend this ceremony to celebrate a ship that has always answered the call of our nation," said Snodgrass. "We are in the midst of generations of submariners who share a common spirit, and exemplify the USS Norfolk motto "Vi per Concordium" which translates from Latin as "strength through unity." While others went about their normal lives, these men have lived that motto and have stood the watch to maintain our nation's security - completing 15 overseas deployments, carrying out our nation's tasking through the Cold War, Gulf War, Kosovo Conflict, Global War on Terror and many other conflicts and periods of tension, some named others unnamed."
Almost 140 Sailors will be on Norfolk when it leaves in January for the trip to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and begin the formal decommissioning process. Ninety-three Sailors will stay after the first crew release scheduled in February 2015. Twenty-nine of those 93 Sailors will be moving families and 24 Sailors will travel unaccompanied. All lament being the final crew, but understand there is still work ahead.
"The crew is excited and at the same time saddened to this Battle "E" winning ship being decommissioned," said Senior Chief Logistics Specialist Kevin Gibbs, the submarine's senior enlisted advisor or chief of the boat (COB). "Norfolk has served the Submarine Force and the U.S. Navy honorably, and has contributed significantly to our nation's defense and that of our allies. While we are disheartened in seeing this great warrior go, we are ready to face the challenge in ensuring USS Norfolk exits our submarine force with the utmost dignity. It has been an honor for me to serve on this great warship with this amazing crew on her last deployment."
Snodgrass and Polk echoed the COB's sentiments.
"Over the past several years, the Norfolk crew has developed a rallying cry, "when you want more, 714," continued Snodgrass. "Since 1983, USS Norfolk has always given more. The current crew is the reigning Submarine Squadron 6 2013 Battle Efficiency awardee. This crew returned from a very successful six month deployment to Central Command this past August. Half way through that deployment, the crew was informed that the ship would be decommissioned. This news may have caused some crews to let down their guard, but not Norfolk. This crew ran to the finish line, carrying out all tasking and demonstrating the highest level of skill. After deployment, the crew completed a rigorous propulsion plant evaluation this past month with stellar results, the best in our squadron. This crew gave more and. I am proud of them. USS Norfolk crew members and families, I thank you for your service to our nation, and contribution to the Submarine Force."
"All of us can feel a special pride in knowing that we are Norfolk's final crew and have the honor of ensuring that she is treated with the respect she deserves in her final days," said Polk. "Our experiences on this boat have been a microcosm of our lives and we should never forget the lessons we learned on these sacred deckplates. In this manner, we can honor her best by keeping her spirit alive in our thoughts, our words and our deeds. This submarine is called Norfolk, but we are Norfolk."
For more news from Commander, Submarine Force, Atlantic, visit www.navy.mil/local/sublant/.