71ºF

Last of Mayport's frigates to be retired

NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. – After 30 years of service in the U.S. Navy, the USS Simpson will be decommissioned Tuesday.

It's the last of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, and the 12th and final frigate to be retired at Mayport Naval Station over the past four years.

It's going to be missed by those who served aboard it.

"It's definitely going to be weird ... bittersweet," Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis Thompkins said.

That's how many sailors feel after saying goodbye to what has been their home away from home.

"It's exciting in the fact that you're moving on and doing something new, but it's sad at the same time because all these sailors and the crew that you've been around over the last year and a half. (You've) spent more time with them than your own family," said Capt. Casey Roskelly, commanding officer of the Simpson. "It's hard to see people go because they're like family."

The USS Simpson, which has provided anti-submarine warfare support and protection of shipping convoys since 1985, has a crew of about 230 sailors.

"This crew has met every single [challenge], every single milestone that has been asked of them and they've done really well," Roskelly said.

USS Simpson and its crew won several awards, including the Battle Effectiveness Award in 2013 after a successful six-month Mediterranean deployment.

"I think crew is what separates a ship from any other ship," said Chief Petty Officer Jeff Tobey. "Obviously all ships have different equipment, but a crew sets us apart."

The sailors said they had many great memories on board the USS Simpson. But not all were great. Many shared a common experience.

"Got seasick on my first day," Tompkins said.

photo

The USS Simpson was named after Rear Adm. Rodger W. Simpson, a well-decorated naval hero of Wold War II. Some of his grandchildren were there to honor his namesake.

"Granddad was the one who would always try to find out what the weakest link is and empower them to become stronger," said grandson Peter Mann.

Mann said being a part of this historical moment was an honor for him.

"These guys sacrifice so much," Mann said. "They sacrifice their families to serve our country."

The sailors continue their work in the Navy -- most have received orders for other positions at Naval Station Mayport -- but say wrapping up their work on the USS Simpson has been emotional.

"Shutting things down, actually seeing people break equipment down and sending it to shore, there's some sad days with that," said Chief Petty Officer Jeff Tobey. "It'll be a sad day knowing that this is it for this great class of warship; that it's no longer here."

The official decommissioning ceremony takes place Tuesday. In mid-October, the ship will be towed to Philadelphia and may be offered for sale to a foreign military.