SAN DIEGO -- The Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate USS Vandegrift (FFG 48) concluded 30 years of service during a decommissioning ceremony at Naval Base San Diego, Feb. 19.
Vandegrift's keel was laid on Oct. 15, 1982 and commissioned on Nov. 24, 1984. Vandegrift and other Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates were built to replace World War II-era destroyers and 1960s-era frigates.
"This ship has been very integral to the Navy's mission since its commissioning. The ship and its class have been the workhorses of the Navy for over 30 years," said Cmdr. Kevin Ralston, commanding officer of Vandegrift. "This ship has carried over one million tons of military hardware in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, in 2004 was the first ship to visit Vietnam since 1975 and served for six years overseas as forward deployed to 7th fleet."
Approximately six former commanding officers and 400 former plank owners, crew members and their families were in attendance for the ceremony.
"When you bring up the name Vandegrift, you're talking on the levels of Bull Halsey and Chester Nimitz," said Maj. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, commanding general, 1st Marine Division. "He is the top echelon of the Marine Corps. His leadership helped us to win over the undefeated Japanese military at Guadalcanal and his no bended knee speech helped keep the Marine Corps from being absorbed by the Army."
Also present was Serina Vandergrift, great-granddaughter of General Alexander Vandergrift, the ships namesake. In 1982, she helped to christen the ship at 11 years old.
"It was a full-circle moment," said Vandegrift. "It was amazing that 30 years ago I was the youngest person in history to help christen a ship into service and now I am here to help decommission the ship out of the service. It really does feel like the end of an era."
Vandegrift recently returned from a seven-month deployment to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility in support of Operation Martillo, a joint, combined operation involving the U.S. and 14 European and Western Hemisphere partner nations, targeting illicit trafficking routes in the waters off of Central America. Vandegrift intercepted approximately nine tons of cocaine and disrupted numerous other illegal drug shipments.
"In 2014, we helped to confiscate 800 kilos of cocaine from potentially reaching the streets of America," said Ralston. "The cocaine's street value is estimated at $3 million. This has been one of our crew's proudest achievements and one of the most defining moments in our ship's history."
Vandegrift has completed an around the world deployment, forward deployed service, supported multiple war on terror efforts and busted multiple shipments of drugs within its 30 year history.
"It's been an honor to serve aboard the Vandegrift," said Operation Specialist 2nd Class Bryan Parsonage, assigned to Vandergrift. "I've learned so much with the crew here. With it being an older ship you learn the basics and beginnings of the Navy. Everything is manual and it makes the Sailors get down to the nitty gritty."