USS Ponce Decommissioned after 46 Years of Service

Following more than 46 years of honorable naval service, the USS Ponce was decommissioned during a time-honored ceremony on Saturday.

The ship, commissioned in 1971, was the 12th and last ship in the Austin-class of amphibious transport dock ships. In 2012, the ship was refitted as an afloat forward staging base (interim). After being forward deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operation for the past five years, the "Proud Lion" returned to its homeport in September and was decommissioned October 14.

Named for the Puerto Rican city of the same name, Ponce served mostly in the Atlantic Fleet, completing 27 deployments in the North Atlantic, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf.

Originally slated for decommissioning in 2011, the "Proud Lion" was refitted and reclassified, based on the USS Kitty Hawk's role as an afloat special operations staging base during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001. And, she was outfitted with a joint Navy - Military Sealift Command crew.

Forward deployed for the past five years, the crew provided vital support to U.S. and allied forces in the U.S. 5th Fleet and Central Command, primarily during mine countermeasures operations, but also in international maritime command and control roles. In doing so, the crew launched, recovered and sustained multiple aircraft, riverine and other vessels.

In 2014, Ponce successfully deployed and operated the laser weapon system for the first time. This 30 kilowatt cutting-edge weapon significantly expands the Navy's viability of directed every weapons in an operational environment, something which will offer increased levels of precision and speed for naval warfighter at a decreased cost.

During its 46-year journey, Ponce and its crews were lauded for their outstanding service, earning numerous individual and unit awards. Ponce now joins the inactive fleet and will be dismantled.

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