By Mark D. Faram - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Mar 23, 2007 16:50:51 EDT
NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. – And then she was gone.
After nearly 39 years of service, the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy was decommissioned the morning of March 23 at Naval Station Mayport.
“In my judgment, the legacy of this ship is the role she played in winning the Cold War,” said Adm. John B. Nathman, commander of the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command and himself a naval aviator. “This ship sent a powerful message to the Soviet Union and made them quit ... You have served with honor and distinction, and I thank you.”
NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. – After nearly three years of uncertainty, the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy will be towed at first light July 24 away from this base that has been its home port since the mid-1990s.
Right now, its destination is Philadelphia, where the ship is expected to arrive at the old Philadelphia Naval Shipyard no later than Aug. 1 for a two-year congressionally mandated “ready” period. Beyond that, there’s only speculation: The ship could eventually become a museum at best, or a test target or artificial reef – the fates of other aged flattops.
On paper, JFK is still a commissioned ship in the Navy, a technicality that will most likely end Sept. 30, when the fiscal calendar rolls into 2008.
“That’s most likely when that will happen,” said Capt. Brad Robinson, the ship’s last executive officer, who has been the officer in charge of Kennedy’s crew and decommissioning efforts since the flag was hauled down for the last time March 24.
The aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy will remain in its berth at Mayport Naval Station, Fla., for at least an extra day, and may not end up leaving port until Friday. Navy Times has also learned that when JFK does depart Mayport, it may not end up at the old Philadelphia Naval Shipyard as originally planned.
The delay was confirmed by Navy officials late Monday, hours before the JFK had been slated to be pulled out by the fleet ocean tug USNS Powhatan on Tuesday. The Navy blamed the delay on mechanical problems with the towing gear.
After a two-day delay, oceangoing tugs towed the decommissioned aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy out to sea Thursday, bound for an interim berth at Naval Base Norfolk, Va., as Navy officials figure out where and how to permanently mothball the ship.
A number of concerns about the initial plan to berth the ship at the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility in Philadelphia led officials to decide to put it temporarily in Norfolk, said Katie Dunnigan, a spokeswoman for Naval Sea Systems Command. When the Kennedy arrives, the Navy will begin “evaluating all its options and considering how we’re going to proceed,” she said.
After a six-day transit up the Atlantic coast from its former homeport in Florida, the decommissioned aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy arrived Tuesday at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., pulled by tugs into the port to which Navy commanders had said the ship would never return.
For a sailor living in Norfolk, Va., a move to sunny Florida may have its own appeal. For the Navy, it may make strategic sense to disperse its most precious assets. But for lawmakers, ships and sailors also mean a steady stream of money into local economies, and they are loath to cut off the spigot.
During his confirmation hearing for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 31, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen was pressed by Florida senators about his support for moving a Norfolk-based nuclear carrier to Mayport, Fla., following the recent loss of the conventionally powered John F. Kennedy to decommissioning.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The two biggest piers at Naval Station Mayport, Fla., likely will remain empty until at least 2009, lawmakers said this week. Early hopes of bringing in temporary ships have faded.
The Pentagon has been considering eventually sending a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to Mayport replace the decommissioned carrier John F. Kennedy.
But with that decision still a couple of years away, the folks representing the region in Congress had been looking to fill the void at Mayport by bringing some big ships on a temporary basis.
PHILADELPHIA – Mike McVey owes his life to the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy – well, at least his livelihood.
On Saturday, he stood on the bank of the Delaware River, not far from his home in Middletown, Del., and watched his old ship go by – heading to a berth at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and indefinite storage.
“I’m here to pay my respects to her today – I probably didn’t respect her enough when I was stationed on her from 1971 to 1974 – but I'm here today, and that’s what counts,” said McVey, a former second class machinery repairman on the ship.