Ho'okele Staff | Jul 19, 2013
USS Reuben James (FFG-57), the last remaining guided-missile frigate homeported in Hawaii, was decommissioned after nearly 30 years of distinguished naval service during a ceremony July 18 at Pearl Harbor.
The officers and crew of USS Reuben James hosted nearly 100 friends, family, alumni and honored guests. Among those who attended were 30 former crew members and their families, including five “plank-owners” (crew members who were assigned to the ship when it was commissioned) and six former commanding officers of the ship.
One of the guests, Retired Master Chief Sonar Technician Ronald Wilson, a plank owner and former Reuben James command master chief, said, “I would not have missed it for the world. I was moved to be a part of the commissioning ceremony. We had survivors from the original Reuben James at the commissioning ceremony back in 1986 and so I felt it only fitting the original commissioning crew would be here at the end of the ship’s life.”
“I’m just pleased as punch to be here. When I heard they were decommissioning the Reuben James, nothing would have kept me away. This was my ship. I built it. I passed on the legacy, and I’m proud of what they have done with it,” Wilson added.
“This ceremony is an opportunity for us to say fair winds, farewell and a job well done-not only to the crew today but also to the thousands of Sailors who served aboard Reuben James over the years,” said Capt. Chris Bushnell, deputy commodore of Destroyer Squadron 31.
“It was my pleasure to thank Fightin’ 57 and her crew for their fine service and hard work and also to present Reuben James the Ney Award last Thursday,” he said.
Guest speaker at the decommissioning was retired Navy Capt. Faris T. Farwell, former commanding officer of the ship, 1997-1999. Capt. Brent Smith, chief of staff for Commander, Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, officiated.
The ship returned from deployment in early May after participating in a series of bilateral maritime exercises for Cooperative Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility.
“It was a privilege to have taken Reuben James on her last deployment forward this year. This proud warship has served the Navy for 27 years. I am grateful for this opportunity to thank all the Sailors and family members who have been part of the Reuben James ohana,” said Capt. Dan Valascho, commanding officer of Reuben James.
“This great grey haul you see behind me is a large hunk of steel, aluminum and wood. What makes it a ship is its people, the crew. You can be proud to say you’ve served aboard Reuben James. She was and still is a great ship,” Valascho said.
With the departure of the Reuben James as the last remaining frigate home-ported in Hawaii, all of Navy’s surface ships home-ported at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam will be guided-missile destroyers and cruisers.
Guided-missile frigates are multi-mission surface combatants, capable of undersea warfare (USW) and surface warfare (SW) missions. Reuben James was assigned to Commander, Destroyer Squadron 31 under Commander, Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, in Hawaii.
(Editor’s note: The Neyaward is presented for food service excellence, considered to be a major contributor to good morale aboard Navy ships.)