SAN DIEGO - When Chief of Navy Chaplains Rear Adm. Margaret Grun Kibben visited the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22) on July 22, 2015 it was a homecoming…of sorts.
Kibben was a member of the decommissioning crew of the Mars-class combat stores ship USS San Diego (AFS 6), the third ship to bear the name San Diego, in 1993.
“It was a real privilege to come on board the ship, certainly because it bears the name of the ship on which I served as a member of her last crew,” said Kibben. “I had a phenomenal experience on AFS 6, deploying twice and enjoying the unique camaraderie of shipboard life and contributing to its vital mission, but it was also very exciting to get a glimpse of the cutting edge of the Navy's expeditionary force.”
The tour of the ship was led by San Diego’s Commanding Officer, Capt. John V. Menoni.
“Capt. Menoni very graciously referred to me as one of the crew and I have to say that I have felt that way since the day her keel was laid,” said Kibben. “But to walk the decks and to hear the stories made me feel that way, indeed.Though an "old" San Diego Sailor, I am honored to be considered a member of this crew.”
The feeling was mutual, as Capt. Menoni explained, “Our Navy-Marine Corps team is why we perform at the level we do and that team extends to every Sailor and Marine that has ever been stationed on this ship or any other ship to bear the proud San Diego name. Once a San Diego Sailor, always a San Diego Sailor.”
In Kibben’s opinion, the crew of the new San Diego is honoring the legacy of the proud name.
“Our slogan was “The Best,” said Kibben. “That's a pretty daunting legacy to maintain, but listening to the captain and the members of the crew that I was able to connect with made it pretty obvious that they have maintained that same commitment to excellence.”
While touring the San Diego was part of Kibben’s visit, her primary goal was to visit with members of the ship’s Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions (CSADD).
“The CSADD initiative has always intrigued me,” said Kibben. “Any grass-roots effort to improve the life and well-being of our most junior Sailors is worthy of congratulations and recognition.”
She made it a point to talk with San Diego’s CSADD and give them a chance to share their experiences and concerns.
“The concern for shipmates is so critical and devotion to looking out for them admirable,” said Kibben. “Equally important, when a group trusts leadership at my level to share their concerns, successes, and perspective, they contribute to "Big Navy" getting it right for their peers and those who follow in their footsteps.”
The CSADD members were equally happy to be able to share their experiences with the chief of Navy chaplains .
“Having the admiral come talk to our CSADD chapter makes me feel honored,” said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Maureen Logroño. “It showed she really cared about the younger enlisted and cared what we had to say. She took the time to talk and go over our issues and greet each and every one of us which is amazing because it shows she is dedicated to all Sailors.”
LPD 22 is currently moored pier side at the BAE Systems Shipyard in San Diego undergoing an extended maintenance period after returning from her maiden deployment, but Kibben was still very impressed with the crew’s morale.
“The pride and the dedication of the crew were palpable,” said Kibben. “Having come off their deployment long-enough ago that it is becoming a distant memory, the crew’s motivation and commitment to showing the same sense of purpose and achieving the same level of success is evident while in the yards.”
San Diego’s crew takes pride in being the fourth ship to bear the name, and having a shipmate from a former San Diego stop by for a visit is a rare and welcomed occurrence.
“Teamwork is the reason we can continue the honored San Diego legacy,” said Menoni. “We have the ship’s bells from two other ships named San Diego and models of all the former ships with the name. It’s always an honor for our crew to have any San Diego Sailor on board.”