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The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) sits pier side during a decommissioning ceremony at Naval Base San Diego, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023. The Mobile Bay was decommissioned after more than 36 years of service. Commissioned Feb. 21, 1987, Mobile Bay served in the U.S. Atlantic, Seventh, and U.S. Pacific Fleet and supported Operation Desert Storm.

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) sits pier side during a decommissioning ceremony at Naval Base San Diego, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023. The Mobile Bay was decommissioned after more than 36 years of service. Commissioned Feb. 21, 1987, Mobile Bay served in the U.S. Atlantic, Seventh, and U.S. Pacific Fleet and supported Operation Desert Storm. (Stevin C. Atkins/U.S. Navy)

The Navy has bid fair winds and following seas to USS Mobile Bay after more than three decades of service.

The Ticonderoga class guided-missile destroyer was decommissioned during a ceremony at Naval Base San Diego on Thursday attended by current and former crewmembers. The inactivated ship will be towed to the Navy’s inactive ship facility in Bremerton, Wash.

“The sailors of USS Mobile Bay demonstrated time and time again the resolve and readiness the Surface Force provides around the clock in support of our nation’s interests,” Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener, commander of Naval Surface Forces, said during the ceremony, according to a Navy news release. “Everywhere this ship and crew deployed, Mobile Bay Sailors served their nation well, and lived up to the valor enshrined in the Battle of Mobile Bay.”

The Mobile Bay, commanded by Capt. Brandon J. Burkett, maintained a crew of 30 officers and 300 enlisted members — known as “MOBsters.”

Capt. Brandon J. Burkett, commanding officer of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), right, and Command Master Chief Neal Olds, command master chief of Mobile Bay, display the commissioning pennant during the decommissioning ceremony of Mobile Bay.

Capt. Brandon J. Burkett, commanding officer of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), right, and Command Master Chief Neal Olds, command master chief of Mobile Bay, display the commissioning pennant during the decommissioning ceremony of Mobile Bay. (Stevin C. Atkins/U.S. Navy)

“It has been a distinct privilege to work alongside some of the finest sailors our Navy and our nation have to offer,” Burkett said during the ceremony. “Their persistence through adversity is commendable and truly represents the spirit of Mobile Bay’s motto, ‘full speed ahead.’ They truly embody what it means to be a ‘MOBster.’ … Those who’ve gone to sea know that a ship is more than a machine that floats. When you are away from home for months on end your ship becomes your home and your protection. We take care of her and she takes care of us.”

Named in honor of the 1864 Civil War naval battle, Battle of Mobile Bay, the cruiser commissioned Feb. 21, 1987, in Mobile, Ala. During its more than 36 years of service, the Mobile Bay participated in the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1989; deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm in 1991; and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

Brian Isbell, a retired plankowner of the Mobile Bay, was a gunner’s mate third class on the cruiser when it supported Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

“Off near the horizon an orange glow appeared. A second or two later a streak of fire shot out of it and headed into the sky, then turned north,” Isbell said in a Navy news release. “Then another glow appeared, this one much closer. Then another, and another. Seemed like hundreds all around us. It went on for what seemed forever but I’m sure it wasn’t more than a minute.”

The cruiser’s motto, “full speed ahead,” comes from the cry Adm. David Farragut, commander of Union naval forces, used during the Battle of Mobile Bay: “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead.”

Ship sponsor Kathryn Jane Maury Denton, wife of Vietnam War veteran and Sen. Jeremiah Denton, helped organize the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia in the 1960s after her husband was shot down and captured in 1965. The Flight III Arleigh-Burke class destroyer USS Jeremiah Denton is named for Sen. Denton, who died in 2014; Kathryn Denton died in 2007 at 81.

Brian McElhiney is reporter for Stars and Stripes based in Okinawa, Japan. He has worked as a music reporter and editor for publications in New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Oregon. One of his earliest journalistic inspirations came from reading Stars and Stripes as a kid growing up in Okinawa.

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