KEYPORT, Wash. (NNS) -- The crew of the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Buffalo (SSN 715) held an inactivation ceremony, July 16, at the Keyport Undersea Museum, celebrating the boat's 35 years of service.
The occasion marked the crew's final public event before the submarine is officially decommissioned in the controlled industrial area (CIA) at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS) in Bremerton, Washington.
"Today we will be talking proud as we celebrate USS Buffalo," said Buffalo's executive officer Lt. Cmdr. Joshua Ragadio. "She is the third of her name, 28th of its class and the 24th to be commissioned; she is silent thunder, the tip of the spear, the warrior of the deep. We are here to recognize the plethora of accomplishments earned by this mighty fine warship, the places she has gone and the things she has seen. Most importantly we are here to celebrate all the officers, chiefs and Sailors who proudly served."
Supporters, Navy League members, representatives from the city of Buffalo and former crew members attended the ceremony to reunite with old shipmates and bid the submarine farewell. Also in attendance from the city of Buffalo was Jim Dentinger, son of the late Fred Dentinger, the inaugural USS Buffalo Committee Chairman and lifetime supporter of Buffalo.
"Our nation owes the Sailors that served on USS Buffalo a tremendous 'thank you' for all your sacrifices to keep this country safe throughout its many successful deployments," said Dentinger. "On behalf of every Buffalonian, and my father Fred Dentinger, thank you for 35 years of incredible service and memories."
When a commissioned U.S. Navy ship is decommissioned, it is taken out of active service and the crew is reassigned to another ship or command. Inactivation is the process in which the submarine will be de-fueled, with the hull retained in safe storage until decommissioning.
"We anticipate that sometime in early February, on a cool, damp day here in the Pacific Northwest, behind the security of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard's Controlled Industrial Area and with little fanfare, myself, along with the executive officer, chief of the boat, a small fraction of the crew and a handful of shipyard personnel will witness the commissioning pennant hauled down and the ensign lowered for the final time aboard Buffalo," said Cmdr. Paul Lee, Buffalo's final commanding officer. "Today's ceremony is our opportunity to bring together current and former crewmembers and families, members of our inactivation project team, and a number of our brothers and sisters in our profession of arms to remember and to truly appreciate the sacrifices of the crew and their families and say goodbye to the 6,000 tons that we called home."
The ceremony concluded with the lowering of the national ensign along with a symbolic securing of the watch.
"Ultimately, warship Buffalo and the men who served on Buffalo are defined by their legacy," said guest speaker Capt. Richard Sief, commodore of Submarine Squadron 1 and Buffalo's 14th commanding officer. "A legacy of unmatched combat and mission readiness, superb leaders who went on to do great things within the submarine force and beyond, and a bond of Buffalo-tough shipmates who made each other better."
Buffalo completed their last deployment December 23, 2016. During their final 7-month deployment to the Western Pacific region, Buffalo visited Singapore, participated in cooperative exercises with the Indonesian and Republic of Singapore navies and had 25 crew members receive their submarine warfare qualifications, or "dolphins". Buffalo departed Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii for a homeport change to Bremerton, Washington, May 1, 2017 for decommissioning. Since their arrival to the Pacific Northwest, the crew has participated in a number of innovation projects and has devoted thousands of hours to community service projects.
"So while the Buffalo will finish the final stages of her decommissioning, all you current Buffalo Sailors will now join the proud tribe of former Buffalo Sailors, and you will unify with them," said guest speaker retired Rear Adm. Robert Hennegan, Buffalo's 7th commanding officer. "This is the common linkage of service to our great country and to one of our greatest warships, the USS Buffalo. While over the decades, the Buffalo operated out of multiple homeports, multiple shipyards, multiple missions, they operated every single day for 35 years; whether they were on a spectacular mission, that we can't talk about here, or stuck deep in the shipyard getting extensive maintenance done, it was always the Buffalo crew on board, serving our country away from their families, for one night, for one month, or one deployment. Well done! So when you step back and think about this, this continued service from a select group of submariners and the associated sacrifices these men and their families made, it is truly inspired. Buffalo crew, thank you and welcome to a proud tribe of Buffalo submariners."
The keel was laid by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics in Groton, Connecticut, January 25, 1980. The boat was launched May 8, 1982, and commissioned November 5, 1983.
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