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Commander, Submarine Group Two


 
 
GROTON, Conn. -Retired Capt. Denny Hicks, the first commanding officer of
USS Memphis (SSN 691) greets Cmdr. Jeffrey Joseph, the current
commanding officer of Memphis during a decommissioning ceremony at
Naval Submarine Base's Shepherd of the Sea chapel on April 1.
(U.S. Navy photograph by Mass Communication Specialist
Virginia K. Schaefer/Released)

Ceremony Celebrates Legacy of “Mighty Memphis”

GROTON, Conn – A standing-room only crowd filled the Naval Submarine Base's Shepherd of the Sea chapel to bid farewell to Los Angeles-class submarine USS Memphis (SSN 691) on April 1.

In a tradition-filled ceremony, the submarine was decommissioned from the active fleet after 33 year of service.

“I will not dwell on the sadness surrounding the loss of a tremendous asset to our fleet but rather would like our conversation to celebrate the life of the Mighty Memphis and her significant contributions to our nation,” said retired Capt. Denny Hicks, the first commanding officer of Memphis.

Hicks led Memphis’ first crew when the submarine was brought to life during a commissioning ceremony on Dec. 17, 1977.  Before being home ported in Groton, Memphis operated out of Norfolk, Va. as a fleet asset until the late 1980’s when she was designated as the submarine force’s research and development boat to test emerging submarine technologies.  In March 1981, Memphis completed a "round-the-world" cruise via the Panama Canal, including operations with both the Sixth and Seventh fleets.  Memphis, originally built for the Cold War, deployed against Iraqi insurgency in 2006.  She completed her final deployment on March 2, conducting operations in the Mediterranean.

“Much of her life was spent in the Atlantic northern latitudes.  She set the record for the fastest under-ice polar transit, but she is equally comfortable operating in the blue waters of the Pacific or the heat of the Arabian Gulf.  Over and over, she defined endurance and flexibility as she visited more than 20 different foreign ports,” said Capt. Bill Merz, commodore of Submarine Development Squadron 12 and a former commanding officer of Memphis.

In her more than three decades of service, Memphis steamed more than 1.4 million miles, the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe nearly 60 times.  She also won the coveted Battenberg Cup in 2005 as the best overall ship in the fleet.  In addition, she received numerous modifications. 

“But more than that, it is the people that made the difference,” said Vice Adm. John Richardson, commander, Submarine Forces.  “It is the people who were able to maintain their training and stay on the cutting-edge of technology and get inside the minds of our advisories, and checkmate those advisories as the conditions changed under their feet.”

Many of those people – former crew members - traveled great distances for one last opportunity to see their submarine with the motto “In defense of human freedom may she ever prowl the seas.”

“It is very touching, very emotional,” said former crew member Lance Hay, who traveled from Springfield, Oregon to attend the ceremony.  “I had some long deployments, but (I had) a lot of good times.  It was great to see everybody from the time I served.”  Hay served on Memphis from 1983 to 1987.

Many others attended the ceremony because of a bond with the boat.

“We’re here today because we pour out our lives into these ships – and not just our own lives but a portion of our wives and children’s lives as well.  And we do this because the stakes of failure are so very high,” said Rear Adm. Richard Breckenridge, the guest speaker and a former Memphis commanding officer.

Currently, Breckenridge serves as Deputy Director, Submarine Warfare Division (N87B).

Next, Memphis will travel to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine to begin an inactivation.  As part of that process, her crew of 13 officers and 121 enlisted personnel will transition to different assignments.

“In less than a year from today, Memphis Sailors will be serving on submarines and shore commands throughout the fleet,” said Cmdr. Jeffrey Joseph, Memphis’ current commanding officer. “So, while it is hard to see such an accomplished ship head off to decommissioning, it is heartening to know that the fighting spirit of the Mighty Memphis will continue to contribute to the defense of our nation in every corner of the globe for many years to come, adding to an already significant legacy.”

Joseph grew up in Peoria, Ill., and St. Louis, Mo., earning his degree in Nuclear Engineering at the University of Illinois.  He completed his division officer tour onboard USS Kamehameha (SSN 642) and served as Navigator and Operations Officer on USS Buffalo (SSN 715).  He later served as Executive Officer onboard USS Louisville (SSN 724) and assumed command of Memphis in March 2011.  He is a graduate of the Naval War College, and holds a graduate degree in National Security and Strategic Studies.

The Navy’s fourth Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarine and sixth U.S. Naval vessel to be named in honor of the city of Memphis, Tenn., Memphis was built by Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company.  The submarine’s sponsor is Mrs. Cathy Beard, who also attended the decommissioning ceremony.

- USN -

To view and download high-resolution photos, click the thinbnail image.

 

GROTON, Conn. (Apr. 1, 2011) Officers attached to USS Memphis (SSN 691) report to the executive officer that their respective departments are ready to be decommissioned during a ceremony held at Naval Submarine Base's Shepherd of the Sea Chapel. The Los Angeles-class submarine was decommissioned after more than 33 years service. (U.S. Navy photograph by Mass Communication Specialist Virginia K. Schaefer/Released)

 

 

GROTON, Conn. (Apr. 1, 2011) Cmdr. Jeffrey Joseph, right, commanding officer of USS Memphis (SSN 691), reports to Capt. Bill Merz, commodore of Submarine Development Squadron 12, that the submarine is ready to be decommissioned. The Los Angeles-class submarine was decommissioned after 33 years of service during a ceremony at Naval Submarine Base's Shepherd of the Sea chapel. (U.S. Navy photograph by Mass Communication Specialist Virginia K. Schaefer/Released)

 

 

GROTON, Conn. (Apr. 1, 2011) The crew of USS Memphis (SSN 691) "falls out" after Cmdr. Jeffrey Joseph, Commanding Officer of Memphis, secures the watch during a decommissioning ceremony held at Naval Submarine Base's Shepherd of the Sea Chapel. The Los Angeles-class ship was decommissioned after more than 33 years of service. (U.S. Navy photograph by Mass Communication Specialist Virginia K. Schaefer/Released)

 

 

GROTON, Conn. (Apr. 1, 2011) Master Chief Machinist Mate Kent Hope, Chief of the Boat of USS Memphis (691), hands the commissioning pennant to Cmdr. Jeffrey Joseph, Commanding Officer of USS Memphis, during a decommissioning ceremony at Naval Submarine Base's Shepherd of the Sea Chapel.  The Los Angeles-class submarine was decommissioned after more than 33 years of service. (U.S. Navy photograph by Mass Communication Specialist Virginia K. Schaefer/Released

  

GROTON, Conn. (Apr. 1, 2011) Cmdr. Jeffrey Joseph, Commanding Officer of Memphis, walks through side boys during a decommissioning ceremony held at Naval Submarine Base's Shepherd of the Sea Chapel. The Los Angeles-class ship was decommissioned after more than 33 years of naval service. (U.S. Navy photograph by Mass Communication Specialist Virginia K. Schaefer/Released)