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USS Ponce, Last of the Austin-class Amphibious warships, Decommissions

USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) in 2015. USS Navy Photo

After 46 years of disaster relief, civilian evacuations, troop transports, fleet protection, and the first use of a laser weapon, USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) was removed from active service during a ceremony over the weekend.

In September, USS Lewis Puller (ESB-3), the purpose-built expeditionary mobile base, relieved Ponce from what had become a five-year stay in the Middle East ended.

Commissioned in 1971, Ponce was the last of the 12 Austin-class amphibious transport dock ships built, designated with hull number LPD-15. Named for the Puerto Rican city of Ponce, the ship completed 27 deployments in the North Atlantic, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf.

Ponce proved to be a versatile platform, used in a variety of missions, including:

  • 1990, Ponce was among the ships participating in Operation Sharp Edge, helping evacuate about 1,600 civilians from Liberia as the nation devolved into a civil war, according to a Navy statement.
  • 2003, Ponce was among seven ships to form Amphibious Task Force East, which at the time, the Navy stated, was the most powerful amphibious force ever to leave the East Coast, according to a Navy statement. The task force, known as the “Magnificent Seven” and the “Beast from the East,” brought nearly 5,000 sailors, 8,000 Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and aircraft from the 2nd Marine Air Wing, to participate in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
  • 2012, refitted to become an afloat forward staging base, based on the USS Kitty Hawk’s (CV-63) role as an afloat special operations staging base during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, according to a Navy statement. The other Austin-class amphibious transport dock ships were steadily being retired and replaced in the fleet by San Antonio class ships. Ponce was outfitted with a joint Navy and Military Sealift Command crew, comprised of active duty and civilian sailors. While support 5th Fleet and Central Command activities, Ponce conducted mine countermeasures operations and international maritime command and control missions.

The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf on November 17, 2014. US Navy photo.

  • 2014, Ponce successfully deployed and operated the laser weapon system (LaWS), according to a Navy statement This 30-kilowatt experimental weapon is designed to counter small boats and unmanned aerial vehicles.

 

 

 

  • Ed L

    Heck of a Ship with a long proud history

  • Centaurus

    Now lets blow it up !

    • Big AlJ

      I was in Army back in 1960 went to Germany on the WILLIAM S.O DARBY 14 days on the ocean blue never ever to go on another ship until five yrs ago the Ponce came to CAPE CARNIVAL my pal was on that ship in his time in the Navy surely enjoyed that day but he really had some great friend s, on it ,.surely was a great experience for him . BLESS all the seamen in the world, this is 1 GI THAT HAD 1 TOUR FOR THAT 1 TIME NEVER TO GO ON BOARD again.

  • Rob C.

    Goodnight and thank you. She broke alot of ground for the future, while server it’s nation with a proud crew. I hope they bring name back for new LPDs their coming out with.

    • El_Sid

      Everyone across the pond hopes so. Truly, two nations separated by a common language…
      (en wiktionary org/wiki/ponce gives an idea)

  • Brent Leatherman

    I always wondered what it would be like for the regular sailors on board when she was operating as a forward staging area. We sat on the hook for a coupla months off of Mogadishu and almost went blind from boredom. Had to be worse for those poor guys.

  • battlestations

    She was a part of the group that sailed with us in the ’80’s; Go Gators!
    G’night ole girl…..