The dock landing ship Whidbey Island, first of its name and of its class, was decommissioned Friday in a ceremony after nearly 38 years of service.

Nine of the ship’s previous commanding officers attended, as did more than 50 plank owners, according to the Navy.

“I am humbled to be with you on this bittersweet day,” Rear Adm. Tom Williams, the commanding officer of Expeditionary Strike Group 2, said during the ceremony, which was held at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Virginia.

Whidbey Island was built at Lockheed Shipyard in Seattle and was commissioned on Feb. 9, 1985.

Over the years, it was the first East Coast amphibious ship to deploy to Europe with landing craft, air cushion vessels, known as LCACs, and undertook Hurricane Hugo disaster relief work in the Caribbean Sea in 1989.

After the Soviet Union fell in 1991, Whidbey Island was the first amphibious ship and largest U.S. warship to operate in the Black Sea, conducting historic port calls in Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey.

The ship and its crew rescued more than 8,100 Cuban migrants from the perilous Straits of Florida in 1994 and helped evacuate more than 800 Americans from Lebanon in 2006.

Its crew nabbed the illustrious Battle “E” award the following year and undertook a final deployment in June 2016.

The ship is named after the sprawling island that lies northwest of Seattle in the Puget Sound, home to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

The Navy plans to inactivate the ship next month, according to a press release announcing the decommissioning.

“The last crew of Whidbey Island performed with great dignity and resiliency,” the ship’s last CO, Cmdr. Matt Phillips, said during the ceremony. “It’s been a privilege and an honor to lead this crew in executing her final mission.”

Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at

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