SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The Austin-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Duluth (LPD 6) was decommissioned at Naval Station San Diego Sept. 28 after serving the Navy and the nation for 39 years.
Duluth has been one of the most versatile ships in the Navy, combining the functions of three different amphibious ships - dock, tank and attack cargo ships. Duluth's primary missions involved transporting ground forces with their equipment and vehicles to enemy shores.
Duluth, the second ship in the Navy to be named after the Minnesota city, has a valiant history. The ship sailed to Danang, Republic of Vietnam, in May 1965 to operate with Amphibious Ready Group, U.S. 7th Fleet in the Vietnam War and more recently supported Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"It was the first ship I was on," said Wayne Bshara, a Sailor aboard Duluth from 1965 to 1967. "It's hard to see such a good ship go."
Duluth also won many awards in its 39 years. The most recent was the Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Award for supporting Navy SEAL (Sea, Air, Land) operations securing oil platforms during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The amphibious transport dock ship's last deployment ended in July 2005 after a six-month cruise to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
During this deployment, Duluth also supported Operation Unified Assistance and delivered 210 tons of supplies to Sumatra and Sri Lanka in response to the tsunami that struck the area in December 2004.
"She performed extraordinarily," said Rear Adm. Christopher C. Ames, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 5, one of three speakers at the ceremony.
Cmdr. Larry D. Grippin, commanding officer of Duluth, and Herb W. Bergson, mayor of Duluth, Minn., also spoke at the ceremony.
"It was an honor to work with this crew and to be part of this great ship," said Grippin, who had served as the commanding officer since March 2004.
Electronics Technician 2nd Class (SW) Shon R. Alexander deployed with the ship twice and spent almost his whole four-year enlistment aboard Duluth. "I have so many memories here. I'll miss it."
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