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Navy crew bids farewell to the USS Salt Lake City

Ceremony ends 21 years' service for the nuclear sub

Published: Thursday, Oct. 27 2005 12:00 a.m. MDT

The naval crew of the USS Salt Lake City, a fast-attack nuclear sub, stand in ranks during the deactivation ceremony on Wednesday at Naval Base Point Loma, Calif.

Mate 3rd Class Timothy F. Sosa/US Navy

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SAN DIEGO — Salt Lake City's service as another name for home — both by land and by sea — was ceremoniously deactivated Wednesday by the Navy.

Bearing both its name and a huge photograph of its high-desert skyline, the USS Salt Lake City was bid a home port farewell, ending 21 years patrolling the globe and the depths of the Cold War.

To the thousands of sailors put aboard the nuclear submarine, running out of fuel and scheduled for decommissioning in December, the picture often served as their only window to the outside and a view back home when they were thousands of miles and months at sea.

Yeoman Ismael A. Maese, who has never been in the city his ship was named after, could point out Temple Square after starring at the far-off skyline night after night during dinner.

"It gets lonely out there after eight months," Maese said. "Starring at that photo, it makes it seem like you're looking out the window into Salt Lake City."

Command Master Chief Brian Schell isn't ready to say goodbye to the vessel he served on three years.

"I understand it's a money thing, but I personally feel there is a lot of life left in this submarine. It's done such a good job; it's a shame to go away," Schell said.

The USS Salt Lake City was commissioned as the Navy's 27th nuclear submarine on May 12, 1984. She was awarded a Navy Unit Commendation on her first Western Pacific deployment in 1986 for "leading the American effort to win the Cold War," retired Navy Adm. Thomas Fargo said.

She completed 13 Western Pacific deployments and will finish one last mission before her final decommission at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard that will take her under the ice cap at the North Pole.

Throughout the years, dignitaries from Salt Lake City toured the submarine, bearing gifts reminding the sailors of the ship's namesake. In return, the city hosted the ship's commanding officers and the "sailor of the year" annually.

Schell fondly remembers one such trip.

"Wow, did they really take us out on the town," he said. They met then-governor Mike Leavitt and were honored on the floors of both the Utah House and Senate. They watched Karl Malone and John Stockton execute a pick-and-roll from their court-side seats at the Delta Center and after, visited Malone's home.

"Even as anti-war as (Mayor) Rocky Anderson is, anytime the commander has been in town, he's so gracious to invite him into his office. He's so kind," said Kerry Casaday, president of the 716 Club, a Utah group that supports the USS Salt Lake City. "This is our ship."

Salt Lake City Councilman Carlton Christensen said he has enjoyed the brotherhood between city and submarine.

"I just hate to see the ship shut down. Hopefully we'll get to see the name again. There is no greater honor than to do what they've done for the city of Salt Lake," said Christensen, who travelled to San Diego for the ceremony.

Casaday is already working with Utah's congressional delegation to find another ship to bear the Salt Lake City name.

The submarine is the second Navy ship named the USS Salt Lake City. The first was a World War II heavy war cruiser. The next could be a marine amphibious assault vehicle, Casaday said.


E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com

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