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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

the decommissioning of USS Los Angeles

Give me freedom, give me fire, give me reason – take me higher –  was on everybody’s lips as it was the Coca-cola’s promotional anthem for the 2010 FIFA and K’naan (Keinan Abdi Warsame) of Somali became world famous.    In US, there is a more popular ‘Give me liberty or give me death’ attributed to Patrick Henry who led the movement for independence in Virginia in 1770s.   US remembered him in a befitting manner.

How will you bond or bracket together – Abraham Lincoln, Frankling Roosevelt, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Woodrow Wilson, Dwight D Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Jimmy Carter, Calvin Coolidge and more…………. [other than the names of American Presidents]

Ships are interesting whether on voyage or at port – when they are born or when they are no longer sailing……..  Twenty of America's forty-two presidents have had warships named in their honor.  Some  had submarines named after them, some presidents had aircraft carriers named after them.   The ships are important – submarines are of strategic importance militarily and are extremely costly.  US is keen on naming  them appropriately. 

In official chronology, prefix USS means ‘United States Ship’ identifying a commissioned ship of the Navy.  Before commissioning, or after decommissioning, she is referred to by name, with no prefix.   The naming procedure and practice have evolved more by tradition.  The names for new ships are personally decided by the Secretary of the Navy. Ship name recommendations are conditioned by such factors as the name categories for ship types now being built, as approved by the Secretary of the Navy; the distribution of geographic names of ships of the Fleet; names borne by previous ships which distinguished themselves in service; names recommended by individuals and groups; and names of naval leaders, national figures, and deceased members of the Navy and Marine Corps who have been honored for heroism in war or for extraordinary achievement in peace.
That is all the honour and glory when she is in service but a time will come when she will have to retire.  The termination of career of a ship from the armed forces is called decommissioning.   This occasion downcasts a somber mood much against the jubilance when she was launched.  

Days back [on Feb 4-2011] US Navy bade farewell to USS Los Angeles at Bremerton.  It is a city in Washington and houses Puget Sound Naval Shipyard an expanse of 179 acres.   With a touch of gloom, the occasion marked the end of an ear of service as SSN 668 the first of the world's largest class of nuclear-powered submarines, underwent her final decommissioning .  In a solemn event,  the submarine's commissioning pennant was hauled down and the watch secured for the last time, ending Los Angeles' 34 years of service.  Launched in 1974 and commissioned Nov. 13, 1976, Los Angeles was the first of a new class of fast-attack submarines, intended as an eventual replacement for the Navy's Skipjack-, Permit- and Sturgeon-class SSNs. A total of 62 Los Angeles-class submarines were constructed between 1972 and 1996, making the class the largest nuclear-powered submarine class in the world.

The vessel’s commander Harrison recalled the frontline role played by Los Angeles and other submarines of her class during the Cold War.  It was the  fourth U.S. Navy ship to bear the name – the others were a World War I tanker (ID 1470), an airship (ZR 3) and a Cold War-era heavy cruiser (CA 135) – Los Angeles received many honors during her three decades of service, including seven Battle Efficiency Awards, seven Meritorious Unit Commendations and one Navy Unit Commendation.  She was deployed 16 times and participated in   multinational exercises.   In 1977 the then President Jimmy Carter alongwith his wife Rosalynn joined for an at-sea demonstration of the submarine's capabilities.
Los Angeles' farewell process began Jan. 23, when the ship's public decommissioning ceremony took place at the Port of Los Angeles. Placed "in commission, in reserve," Los Angeles transited north to PSNS and IMF to begin the inactivation process.   At the time of taking custody, it has been promised that the Naval yard would honour the submarine's history.

All commissioned ships will have to retire one day – which in someways is a natural death.  But the to the crew it is more sacred as they would savour proud moments on board the vessel.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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