Amphibious transport dock USS Shreveport (LPD 12) arrives in Souda Bay for a scheduled port visit
. Shreveport is part of the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group on deployment in support of maritime security operations (MSO) in both the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility (AOR). U.S. Navy photo by Paul Farley
When USS Shreveport (LPD 12) homeports in early July, it will be for the last time. A 37-year-old amphibious docking ship, Shreveport is completing one last deployment prior to a scheduled Sept. 28 decommissioning.
The current and final commanding officer of the Shreveport, Capt. Paul Monger, said he understands why the Navy is retiring a ship that is still operationally effective.
“We had some Kenyan generals out here that said, ‘Why would you decommission a ship like this? It looks great. If this is one of those platforms that you’re getting rid of because its not as capable as you need it to be, the new ones must really, really be good,’” Monger recalled. “And the answer is, they are.”
The beginning of the end comes in July when the “Super Gator” returns to Norfolk. The first step is a munitions off-load. Then, those Sailors who have transfer orders will leave for their new bases and ships around the fleet. The crew members remaining will ready the ship for the decommissioning.
Shreveport will be stripped bare of all items that can still be used. The crew will recover everything useful from bow to stern, from computers and cabinets to wrenches and valves. Documents will be shipped to new commands. The crew will move to a barge moored next to the ship for the duration of their stay.
Until then, the roughly 400 Sailors and 400 Marines on board will continue to pursue their mission.
Shreveport is in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operation as a theater reserve, a force that stays ready to go anywhere if called. Maintaining proficiency through ongoing training becomes the focus of troops tasked with remaining in a ready position.
“It keeps our guys up to speed,” Monger said. “What we’re tasked to do is bring Marines over into theater and to be ready to put them wherever they need to go.”
Often, he said, ships in the Persian Gulf will drop Marines off in Kuwait and pick them up later, however, depending on how long they will stay, the Marines may catch a different ride home. Shreveport's Marines, elements of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, have been on board the entire deployment, with the exception of a few brief exercises.
Shreveport's mission also supports maritime security operations (MSO) through the use of three visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) teams.
“They’ll do anything from going and talking to a local fisherman in his fishing boat to boarding a vessel that looks suspicious to verify that it’s in fact not somebody that’s smuggling goods or people,” Monger said.
The next ship that deploys in her place may be more sleek, efficient and modern, but only time will tell if the "Super Gator’s" successor will serve for as long and well as Shreveport has.
Ensign Peter J. Downes, Shreveport’s administrative officer, said he’s constantly reminded of the long history of the ship.
“Every time I walk around the ship, since everything’s so old, I always wonder what it was like for some other ensign in the ‘70s or ‘80s," he said. “It’s interesting to have that kind of history. She’s still going strong for her age.”
“The ship has had a long, good life,” he said. “It has been very successful. I hate to see it go.”
Shreveport is currently on a regularly scheduled deployment to support MSO in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations as part of the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group. Coalition forces conduct MSO under international maritime conventions to ensure security and safety in international waters so that all commercial shipping can operate freely while transiting the region.
By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Seth Clarke, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public