Cold War veteran also made its mark in post-9/11 world
by Jennifer McDermott

Groton - "The weapons are offloaded, the torpedo tubes are secure, the weapons department is ready to decommission the ship!"

" Very well."

One by one, the officers of the USS Philadelphia called out the status of their departments.

The chief of the boat, Master Chief Electronics Technician Joseph Wilt, reported that the crew was ready.

After 33 years of service, the Philadelphia (SSN 690) was decommissioned Friday at the Naval Submarine Base.

" Our ship, correction, our home may be gone, but Philadelphia will live forever in the sailors that have and will continue to serve our great Navy and our great nation," said Cmdr. David S. Soldow, the commanding officer. "Although I'm the last commanding officer of this proud warship, I am proud to say that I am a Philadelphia sailor."

Wilt yelled, "Crew, one last time! 690!"

" Philly," the sailors yelled in response.

The commissioning pennant was taken down. The quartermaster rang the bell. The guests stood.

Many in the audience had served on the Philadelphia, from the first to walk aboard to the current crew members.

Commissioned in 1977, the Philadelphia was "designed to counter Soviet aggression," said Rear Adm. Douglas J. McAneny, commander of the Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

After the Cold War ended, many viewed Los Angeles-class submarines like the Philadelphia as "relics," said McAneny, the guest speaker who also commanded the Philadelphia from 1995 to 1998.

" But we all know now that the Philadelphia and other Los Angeles-class submarines would do much to shape the new world order," he said.

The Philadelphia deployed 16 times in support of numerous operations, including Desert Storm in 1991. The submarine was deployed on Sept. 11, 2001, and stayed out at sea an extra month in response.

Electric Boat delivered 33 out of the 62 members of the Los Angeles class of submarines to the Navy. Philadelphia was the first. McAneny asked the audience to applaud the "men and women who support us every day at Electric Boat."

EB President John P. Casey, who attended the ceremony, said McAneny's recognition of the company's contributions "should be a source of pride for every member of our entire shipbuilding team."

Many "plank owners," the officers and sailors who were part of the crew when the submarine was commissioned, traveled from across the country for the ceremony.

" We had a special bond with the ship. We put the Philadelphia into service and we're here to see it taken out," said Bob Scott of Maryland.

" It's amazing that something that powerful will be put to rest," said Don Morris Jr. of Ohio. "I walked through and she still looks ready."

The submarine now heads to Portsmouth, Va., to begin the inactivation process.