SASEBO, Japan - Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) turned over her forward-deployed title to USS Ashland (LSD 48) during a hull swap ceremony at Commander Fleet Activities Sasebo, Aug. 23.
The hull swap took place following a two and a half week transition between the two ships, which began with Ashland's arrival, Aug. 6.
Ashland is the eighth and last Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship to be built and was commissioned, May 9, 1994. Since her commission, Ashland has served in the Mediterranean, Arabian Gulf, Persian Gulf and both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Ashland recently completed her mid-life upgrade in 2012 in preparation for her duties as a forward-deployed naval vessel.
"Our crew has worked so hard for the past two years upgrading Ashland, making her one of the most capable LSDs in the fleet," said Tortuga's commanding officer, Cmdr. Brett C. Hershman (formerly Ashland's commanding officer). "We are proud to provide such an effective ship to the FDNF [forward deployed naval forces] and we hope the new crew the best in writing the next chapter of her life as a forward-deployed asset. We are looking forward to getting back to work with Tortuga and getting her home safely," said Hershman.
Hull swap, or ship rotation, is a part of the Navy's long-range strategy to routinely exchange older ships assigned to the Navy's FDNF with newer or more efficient ships.
Tortuga has served the FDNF since 2006 and has conducted or participated in numerous exercises and operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations, including Talisman Saber, Balikatan, the multinational exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) and Operation Tomodachi, following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan in March 2011.
Tortuga has left a long legacy in Sasebo, which the new crew of Ashland wishes to continue.
"Tortuga has sailed more than 170,000 nautical miles during her time in the FDNF," said Ashland's commanding officer, Cmdr. John J. Barnett (formerly Tortuga's commanding officer). "She has been the epitome of operational readiness and we have had extreme pride in her abilities. With heavy hearts we bid farewell to Tortuga as she makes her way back to the U.S. We would like to thank the Sailors of Ashland for delivering her to Sasebo in such terrific condition. We wish you fair winds and following seas as Tortuga takes you all home," said Barnett.
Tortuga will depart Sasebo in September and return to her new home in Little Creek, Va.