ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41) is the first ship in her class of amphibious dock landing ships. It's even promulgated in her motto: "First in her class, first always."
But there's one thing she refused to finish first, and that is her career in the United States Navy. When a 2013 report was sent to Congress putting her on the decommissioning list, it was not the kind of "first" Whidbey Island Sailors were looking for.
"When we got the word we were going to be decommissioned, of course the crew was upset, but it didn't stop them from giving their all," said Cmdr. Christopher Wells, commanding officer aboard Whidbey Island. "These Sailors still worked hard and still kept up their duties with an overwhelming sense of pride. They kept up the standards that make us great."
With decommissioning looming over the horizon, it would have been easy enough for any Sailor to give up and ride it out until day's end. But the crew aboard Whidbey Island was not so easily defeated.
"The decision took a toll on morale, but not our work ethic," said Wells. "We still maintained a strong desire to get the job done better than anyone else in the fleet."
After two years of hard work, dedication and a whole lot of elbow grease, the decision to decommission the ship was overturned, and it gave the crew even more reason to showcase the ship's capabilities, as seen most recently during multi-national, amphibious exercise Bold Alligator 2014.
The ship is fully prepared to execute missions across the range of military operations to include well deck operations with small craft such as landing craft air cushions (LCACs) and amphibious assault vehicles (AAVs), as well flight deck operations to launch and land helicopters such as MH-60S Seahawks.
"We did well deck ops, took on LCACs, AAVs, Marine humvees, we held flight quarters where we did night landings and take-offs, held flight deck crash drills and visit, board, search and seizure drills," said Cmdr. Michael Toth, executive officer aboard Whidbey Island. "Every part of this ship has been tested. We've shown the world that we've still got it, and we're going to keep giving it for the foreseeable future."
Sailors aboard Whidbey Island now prepare for the road to their next scheduled deployment in 2016, which includes a six-month continuous maintenance availability, sea trials and work-ups.
"It's going to be a bit of time before we deploy again," said Toth. "But everyone here, from the top right on down to the bottom, is ready to pull together and show the world what we're made of."
As Whidbey Island comes close to beginning her pre-deployment cycle, she remains to be the ship given another chance to prove her motto: "First in her class, first always."
Except when it comes to decommissioning.
Bold Alligator is scheduled to continue until Nov. 10 afloat and ashore along the Eastern Seaboard.