SEAL BEACH, Calif. (NNS) -- The guided-missile frigate USS Gary (FFG 51) departed Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach for the last time May 21 after conducting her final ammunition offload.
She is the last of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet frigates and is due to decommission later this year.
"It is surreal, offloading our ammunition for the last time, as I look up the coastline towards the Port of Long Beach, the place where USS Gary was constructed and brought into naval service over thirty years ago," said Cmdr. Steven McDowell, the ship's commanding officer.
The Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates were designed originally as a cost efficient surface combatant used to protect warships and merchant marine ships, especially as anti-submarine escorts for amphibious expeditionary forces, underway replenishment groups, and merchant convoys.
However, they lack the multi-mission capability necessary for modern surface combatants faced with multiple, high-technology threats and have little capacity for growth.
The latest U.S. deactivation plans will retire all Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates by October 2015, which will be the first time that the U.S. Navy has been without a frigate class of ships since 1943.
After more than 30 years of distinguished service, USS Gary is tentatively scheduled to decommission on July 23, 2015 at Naval Station San Diego.
Hugo Portillo, a base material handler inspector with Naval Munitions Command CONUS West Division Unit Seal Beach, recalls the frigates as always having a tight crew. "Larger ships have plenty of people in each department, but with the frigates, everybody on the ship pulls together to help out," said Portillo.
"Of all the ships, the frigate is more of a family unit," said Lt. Edward Cruzmattos, the ship's combat systems officer. "Yes, it's sad to see it go, but the thing about the Navy over other branches, is that we are always fast tracking new technology and it's good to be learning new systems."
Upon the Gary's decommissioning, Cruzmattos will be reassigned to Destroyer Squadron 7 in Singapore, where he will be working with the new littoral combat ships.
"Visiting Seal Beach and working side by side with our Sailors as we offload our ammunition, I cannot help but to think about how far along we have come as a frigate, and as a Navy," said Senior Chief Mineman Reuben Diaz, Gary's command senior chief.
"One thing that remains constant, is that the crew is the pulse of the ship," added Diaz. "I will forever be proud to have served and earned the title of a 'Frigate Sailor."