Being a part of a ship decommissioning is a bittersweet opportunity. As a ship is brought to life, its deckplates roar with the sounds of eager Sailors who are ready to meet the day-to-day challenges of America’s Navy head-on. But as we say goodbye, some of those very same Sailors who gave their all and became the heartbeat and soul of the ship, often become overwhelmed with emotions as they render final honors to a place they called home. Although I too share in these emotions as we say our final goodbyes to the last Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate – USS Simpson (FFG 56) – I take great comfort in knowing that our Navy is moving forward in the right direction as we leverage new technologies to deliver capabilities that meet fleet requirements today and will remain relevant to mitigate evolving threats in the future.
As shipmates, plankowners, friends and family members gather, we will share sea stories and reminisce about our time aboard, and recount the 30 years of service this great ship gave to our country. I had the distinct pleasure of commanding Simpson on my last sea tour during NATO’s Standing Naval Force’s Atlantic deployment to the United States in 2004. During that tour we visited New York City, which was the first visit by NATO after the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001. The ship earned two Battle Efficiency Awards during my time in charge. Being in command of Simpson and working with an amazing crew was an honor, a privilege, and certainly a source of pride in my naval career. And its crew members – past and present – can say proudly that they served their country with pride. The ship will soon leave Mayport and transition to Philadelphia to complete its final work prior to being sold to one of our military allies, but it will serve alongside the United States Navy again sometime in the future. Frigates may be small, but they can take a hit and keep going, and Simpson’s legacy will live on to win the fight again.
Great care has gone into making Simpson the great warship that she is and the crew proved time and again that they care about her and about each other – from their first deployment to their last. They stood the watch and gave countless man-hours for the greater cause and to the betterment of our country and our allies. In 30 years, Simpson has seen successful deployments to the Mediterranean Sea, Arabian Gulf, Eastern Pacific and the Caribbean Sea. I salute all who walked on these deckplates and honored this ship and her namesake with dignity and class until her last moments of active service to the fleet. As the flag is hauled down for the last time, I say,”Fair Winds and Following Seas. Thank you for your service and God bless the United States Navy, and the United States of America.”
MAYPORT, Fla. (Sept. 29, 2015) Rear Adm. Rick Williamson, commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, delivers remarks during the decommissioning ceremony for the guided-missile frigate USS Simpson (FFG 56) at Naval Station Mayport. Simpson was in service for 30 years and is the most recent U.S. Navy warship to sink an enemy vessel in action during an encounter with an Iranian gunboat in the Arabian Gulf on April 18, 1988. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Timothy Schumaker/Released)