The U.S. Navy officially decommissioned the USS Peleliu Tuesday after more than 34 years of service.
The amphibious assault ship – which has been deployed 17 times, steaming more than 1 million nautical miles over its lifespan – was decommissioned at Naval Base San Diego.
The ceremony marked the end of a career for the ship that has deployed on humanitarian and peacekeeping missions over the past three decades, including a critical role in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Peleliu – also known as the “Iron Nickel” – was the first ship in the Global War on Terror to deploy Marines in support of operations in Afghanistan, the Navy said.
Capable of launching a coordinated air and sea attack from one platform, USS Peleliu has also logged 178,051 flight operations and served 57,983 personnel since being commissioned on May 3, 1980, in Pascagoula, Miss., according to the Navy.
Capt. Paul Spedero is the last in the ship’s long line of 23 commanding officers.
The decommissioning of the ship was attended by many veterans who served on the USS Peleliu, including Will Avant and Robert West, both of whom were present when the ship was first commissioned nearly 35 years ago.
“I put this old girl into commission, and I think it would only be fitting to say goodbye to her. It’s a hurting thing, but like anything else, this too shall pass,” said Avant.
“It was a long ride – a good ride – and a rewarding thing. It was a great ship. She’s a good fighting ship. She had a good crew,” Avant added. “I’m proud. It was a pleasure to serve my country.”
West, who served aboard the Peleliu for more than three years before working 18 years on reserve, said he enjoyed his time aboard the vessel.
Coming back to see it decommissioned brought back many memories of his family.
“The emotion is really getting to me now because my parents were there in Pascagoula, Miss., when we got commissioned. My sister was there – she was a little kid – she’s 47 years old now,” West explained.
The veteran said he was happy to reunite with his fellow service members at Tuesday’s event.
“I’ve seen so many people that I served with today. The emotion is flowing through me right now. It’s kind of a sad, sad day,” West added.
USS Peleliu returned to San Diego from its last deployment in December, just in time for Christmas. The ship and its 1,000-member crew had been conducting security and stability operations and exercises throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region in cooperation with partner nations.
After its decommissioning, the Iron Nickle will be towed from San Diego to Pearl Harbor to join the Navy’s reserve fleet and moored alongside the class's namesake USS Tarawa (LHA 1).