The US Navy has decommissioned the final Austin-class amphibious transport dock ship, the afloat forward-staging base (interim) USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15), after 46 years of service.
USS Ponce, also known as ‘Proud Lion’, was originally commissioned in 1971 and later upgraded into an AFSB(I) vessel in 2012.
USS Ponce commanding officer captain Christopher Wells said: “After exceptional service to the navy and nation for nearly half a century, it is bittersweet that the ‘Proud Lion’ has returned to its homeport here in Norfolk for one last event, its decommissioning.”
USS Ponce was forward deployed to the US 5th Fleet area of operation over the last five years, and returned to its homeport in September.
The navy ship was named after the city in Puerto Rico and primarily served in the Atlantic Fleet.
It completed a total of 27 deployments within its service life, including operations in the North Atlantic, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf.
The crew of USS Ponce offered support to the US Navy and its allied forces in the US 5th Fleet and Central Command during the five years of forward deployment, primarily during mine countermeasures operations.
The vessel also provided assistance in various international maritime command and control capacities.
USS Ponce was relieved in the US 5th Fleet by the expeditionary seabase ship USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), which is the first vessel to be constructed specifically to serve as an afloat forward-staging base unit.
The vessel successfully deployed and operated the laser weapon system (LaWS) for the first time in 2014.
Image: Decommissioning ceremony of USS Ponce. Photo: courtesy of US Navy by mass communication specialist 2nd class Justin Wolpert / Released.