USS Constellation Retires After 42 Years

Friday, August 08, 2003
'America's Flagship', USS Constellation (CV 64) was decommissioned Aug. 6 after 41 years, nine months and 11 days of naval service in a ceremony at Naval Air Station North Island.

Former President Ronald Reagan presented a Presidential Flag to the ship in 1981, and tagged Constellation with the nickname 'America's Flagship.' Coincidentally, the newly commissioned USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) will replace Constellation when it arrives in San Diego next summer. Lt.j.g. Jenny Krug, combat systems division officer, has been on the crew of a precommissioning unit (PCU), but never part of a decommissioning crew. "It's really interesting working the opposite side of a PCU," said Krug. "The decommissioning is a sad moment in the life of 'Connie', if you think about the ship's history and all that it's done. But, it's still exciting being here, being a part of the legacy that Constellation has become with all that she has accomplished."

Commissioned at New York Naval Shipyard Oct. 27, 1961, Constellation is the third ship to be christened with the name, and bears the motto "Spirit of the Old, Pride of the New." It has seen service in the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Southern Watch, Operation Enduring Freedom, and most recently, returning from a deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Since its commissioning, nearly 120,000 Sailors and Marines have served aboard "America's Flagship." The arresting gear aboard has amassed an impressive 436 thousand "traps," or landings.

Connie, as the ship is known to the crew, departed San Diego Nov. 2 for its 21st and final deployment. It arrived in the Arabian Gulf Dec. 17, and remained on station for four months before departing April 17 and returning to San Diego in June. Constellation was the first to launch air strikes in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Connie subsequently flew more than 1,500 sorties, dropping more than 1.7 million pounds of ordinance on strategic military targets. In addition, Connie produced, packaged and dropped about 600 million leaflets over Iraq, more than 25 for every man, woman, and child in Iraq.

"Connie is an amazing ship," said Ship's Boatswain, Chief Warrant Officer Mike Frost. "It doesn't matter what you wear on your sleeve or what's on your collar, we are a team, 'The Connie Team.' We work together as a team, and we fight together as a team." That dedication has allowed Constellation to be honored with more than 30 awards, including one Presidential Unit Citation, one Southwest Asia award, two Battle 'E's, seven Armed Forces Expeditionary awards, three Navy Expeditionary Service awards, six Meritorious Unit Commendations, three Navy Unit Commendations, six Vietnam Service Awards, and six Republic of Vietnam Unit Citation (with Palm) for Gallantry.

"Today is a day to be proud of Constellation's crews, both past and present," said commanding officer, Capt. John Miller. "The legacy of Constellation is evident in the pride and history of its crews and mission. I am as proud to have served as commanding officer, as each and every Sailor aboard has the right to say 'I am proud to have served on 'America's Flagship.' " In approximately a month, after the lowering of the commissioning pennant and ship's colors, and after the last watch is secured, Connie will be towed to an inactive ships' facility in Bremerton, Wash.

(By Journalist Seaman Ron Kuzlik, Navy Region Southwest Public Affairs)

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