Monday, October 16, 2017
Farewell, USS Ponce
When the USS Ponce was commissioned in the early 1970's, you could guess some of the sailors had somewhere else to be. Given that it was the Vietnam era, there was a draft. No women on combat ships then, as this was an LPD amphibious ship. Skip forward to 2012, and the USS Ponce got a second life. Saved from decommissioning, she has spent the better of five years in the Persian Gulf, testing new theories of littoral action in a Navy once accustomed to deep sea operations. Of note is furing these past five years, she carried a civilian operating crew. As the last ship of that class, the Navy sailors who knew its engines were in bigger positions on other ships or shoreside. The civilian engineers put a bit of sweat equity to get the ship mission ready again. She has served a good five years with a hybrid crew, and is now being commissioned after 46 years of service. For this last tour of duty, all engineers were volunteers on one of the last steam vessels crewed by Navy civilians.