- AFSB(I)15 was the first ship to be fully realised and dedicated as an afloat forward staging base
- The ship will decommission in Norfolk, Virginia, on 14 October
The US Navy (USN) afloat forward staging base-interim USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) has returned to Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, to end its career after being forward deployed to the US 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility (AoR) for more than five years.
Arriving at Norfolk, Virginia, on 27 September, the ship will formally decommission on 14 October.
Built as an Austin-class amphibious transport dock ship (LPD), Ponce was commissioned in July 1971 and went on to serve 42 years with the Atlantic Fleet. In 2011, the ship was scheduled for retirement and began deactivation in November that year ahead of a formal decommissioning planned for March 2012.
However, following a mandate from the chief of naval operations, US Fleet Forces Command, in co-operation with the Military Sealift Command (MSC), co-ordinated efforts to meet a US Central Command request for an afloat forward staging base to conduct a variety of in-theatre sea operations. As a result, Ponce was reprieved, refitted, and reclassified from an LPD to serve as an afloat forward staging base (interim) with a hybrid crew of USN and MSC personnel.
Ponce was forward deployed to the 5th Fleet in July 2012, being based in Bahrain.
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