SAN DIEGO (Sept. 30, 2011) Sailors assigned to the amphibious transport dock ship USS Cleveland (LPD 7) disembark the ship for the last time during a decommissioning ceremony at Naval Base San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo by Electrician’s Mate Fireman Yasmine Muhammad)

SAN DIEGO (NNS) - USS Cleveland (LPD 7) was decommissioned Sept. 30 as Sailors, former crew members, family and friends gathered at Naval Base San Diego to celebrate the ship's 44 years of service.

Cleveland was commissioned April 21, 1967 in Norfolk, Va. The ship became a member of the Pacific Fleet's amphibious force when it transited to San Diego.

Less than six months after its arrival in, Cleveland sailed for its first Western Pacific deployment, deploying to the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam, where the ship saw its first action during the Tet Offensive.

Over its 44-year span, Cleveland deployed more than 20 times and participated in operations ranging from combat and disaster response to serving as a location for the movie Inchon which was filmed in 1978.

Cleveland concluded its life at sea with a four-and-a-half-month Pacific Partnership deployment to Southeast Asia and Oceania.

"It's an interesting moment because it brings a closure to Sailors who have served since the ship's commission", said Cmdr. Christopher Kipp, Cleveland's last commanding officer. "To be one of the last Sailors to serve on the ship is definitely something that's unique and will stay with me for a while."

Generations of Cleveland Sailors and Marines came together to say goodbye one last time.

"It's a cheerful goodbye to a beautiful ship", said Alexander Phillips, the first hospital corpsman assigned to Cleveland. "The ceremony was very emotional, especially seeing all the young Sailors carrying on the tradition that we started 44 years ago."

Cleveland will transit to Hawaii, where the ship will be in an inactive reserve status.