Nearly 29 years ago, USS Vella Gulf (CG-72) sat in the waters around Norfolk, Va., waiting to be commissioned into the Navy.
The ship sat in the same waters Thursday, this time for its decommissioning ceremony as its current crew and plankowners said goodbye to the ship.
When Vella Gulf commissioned, every sailor wanted to be on an Aegis-class cruiser, said Capt. Constantine Xefteris, the ship’s first commanding officer. Those cruisers set the standard for performance.
“I don’t care whether you’re playing a sport, whether you’re playing a musical instrument, whether you’re playing chess, you want to be the best,” Xefteris said. “You want to play with the best, and you want to play against the best. And Aegis cruisers were just simply the best.”
During its time in the Navy, Vella Gulf deployed multiple times, visiting Malta, Cyprus, Italy, Scotland, Israel, to name a few, said Capt. Mike Desmond, the ship’s current commanding officer.
“And by my calculations, Vella Gulf has sailed nearly a half million miles,” Desmond said.
The miles took their toll on Vella Gulf, with Desmond saying that in its later years, the ship became temperamental.
“When all systems were a go, operating as designed, she was arguably the most reliable, capable and lethal warship on the planet,” he said. “And certainly the most fun to sail.”
Vella Gulf had two COVID-19 deployments, Desmond noted.
That includes a deployment with Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group in February 2021. However, Vella Gulf was shortly sidelined due to mechanical issues.
The ship also deployed with the Eisenhower CSG in 2020, sailing to the Middle East and Europe, said Rear Adm. Brendan McLane, commander of Naval Surface Forces Atlantic.
“Two hundred and five days straight underway. Nobody came out. Nobody left,” McLane said, referencing the period when the Navy halted port calls to prevent spread of COVID-19.
Vella Gulf is one of five cruisers that will be decommissioned in Fiscal Year 2022. The ship will get towed to the Navy’s Inactive Ship’s facility in Philadelphia, Pa., on Oct. 11. It will be placed in Logistical Support Asset status.