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PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - An audience of Sailors, submarine veterans, and friends and families of the crew of USS La Jolla (SSN 701) gathered at Lockwood Hall Lanai at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Oct. 14, to bid farewell to the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine, celebrating an active career spanning more than three decades.
La Jolla is scheduled to depart Pearl Harbor en route to Norfolk, Virginia, where she will be decommissioned and converted into a Moored Training Ship (MTS), serving as a training platform for Nuclear Power training at Naval Support Activity Charleston, South Carolina.
Along her illustrious 33-year career serving the U.S. Submarine Force, La Jolla had many 'firsts' under her belt, including the first of the Los Angeles-class of submarines to be homeported in San Diego; the first to participate in the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and Korean Maritime Self Defense Force's first multi-national exercise, Pacific Reach 2004; the first to deploy overseas with the advanced AN/BQQ-5D sonar system on board; and the first to be fitted with the Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle (DSRV).
Rear Adm. Phil Sawyer, the commander of Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, who served as a guest speaker, said it was an honor to have served aboard La Jolla as the ship's 10th commanding officer, and more importantly thanked all the individuals who helped make La Jolla such a successful warship over the years.
"To the officers and crew of USS La Jolla, please accept my profound gratitude for all that you do, day in and day out, for our submarine force, our Navy and our nation," said Sawyer.
The commodore of Submarine Squadron 1, Capt. Harry Ganteaume, also highlighted some of La Jolla's significant achievements including her role in the early stages of the highly successful Tomahawk missile program and the first submerged launch of a missile in 1983.
He continued to say that La Jolla was one of only three Los Angeles-class submarines certified for dry-deck shelter operations, contributing to the integration of submarine and Naval Special Warfare operations.
"I am sure many of you who have served onboard one of our first flight 688 (Los Angeles-class) classics will argue that there is no better submarine," said Ganteaume. "My very best wishes for continued success during the upcoming conversion in support of the Navy's nuclear propulsion program; one that will certainly be vital to the future of our Navy and the submarine force."
Retired captain and former commanding officer (CO) of La Jolla, Jeff Fishbeck, was on hand to speak about his experiences in command of La Jolla as the ship's fourth CO. He said he was truly honored to have commanded La Jolla, work with the Sailors and meet their families.
"The officers and crew were just incredible," said Fishbeck, who is from San Diego. "I had a wardroom of real professionals that passed on the legacy of La Jolla, which is, we are a clean boat, we are the best in everything we do."
"We were first in a lot of things that are done here in the submarine force," said Fishbeck. "It is truly a ship that could do everything that it was asked to do and it was asked to do quite a bit."
The former CO spoke of the submarine's sponsor, the late Shirley Wilson, who was a driving force behind La Jolla. Wilson embodied the spirit of the ship, took great care and pride over the ship.
The ship's bell will soon be donated by the Navy in honor of Shirley Wilson, to be displayed at the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
Fishbeck presented Sawyer with a poster of the submarine as well as a copy of the book 'Mains'l Haul, a Century of Submarines in San Diego' as a token of appreciation for Sawyer's service as the 10th commanding officer on La Jolla.
Many Sailors of La Jolla expressed their memorable experiences while serving aboard the submarine. Sonar Technician Seaman Joseph Morgan has been on the La Jolla for nine months and said it is an experience he will never forget.
"The La Jolla experience is very memorable for me," said Morgan, who is from Santa Ana, California. "The thing I will remember most about the La Jolla is her crew, how lively and enjoyable they made it. Even during the long days, I knew I had someone there with me that was pulling their weight and keeping me going."
Named for La Jolla, California, she is the first warship named after the township. Commissioned Oct. 24, 1981, La Jolla is the 14th ship of the Los Angeles-class of nuclear-powered, fast-attack submarines, is 360-feet long, and displaces 6,900 tons. The submarine can be armed with sophisticated Mark-48 Advanced Capability (ADCAP) anti-submarine torpedoes and Tomahawk guided cruise missiles.
For more information about La Jolla, or other assets of Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, visit www.csp.navy.mil.