By CDR Todd Whalen
Commanding Officer, USS Rodney M. Davis
A ship decommissioning is typically a somber affair. When a ship is commissioned, eager and smiling Sailors bring the ship to life. But the decommissioning ceremony is more like a funeral, as Sailors bid farewell and shed a few tears.
Last Friday, my crew and I said goodbye to USS Rodney M. Davis (Rodney M. Davis), named after Sergeant Rodney Maxwell Davis, USMC, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for sacrificing his life for his fellow Marines on the field of battle in Vietnam.
Sgt. Davis’ wife, Judy, the ship’s sponsor, christened the ship and was on hand when the ship was commissioned on May 9, 1987. Twenty-eight years later, over forty members of the Davis family joined my crew at our decommissioning ceremony. Sgt. Davis’ siblings, Gordon, Howard, Robert, and Debra watched as we disembarked the crew. Samantha and Nichola, his daughters, helped us haul down our colors and commissioning pennant. And after the ceremony, Rodney Maxwell Davis II and III walked our steel decks.
As expected, it was a sad day, but also a time to celebrate the life of an American hero and the ship bearing his name. In a fitting tribute to Sgt. Davis’ legacy, many plankowners and former crew were on hand for the ceremony. Additionally, several Marines who served with Sgt. Davis in London and Vietnam were in the audience, including some of those he saved with his final valiant act. It was a special day for all Rodney M. Davis Sailors, past and present.
Over 2,000 Bold Runners served in Rodney M. Davis over the years. Commissioned May 9, 1987, the ship left for Yokosuka, Japan the following year and spent the first half of her career as part of our Forward Deployed Naval Forces. While assigned to Destroyer Squadron Fifteen, Rodney M. Davis conducted extensive operations in the Western Pacific Ocean and deployed multiple times to the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, and Gulf of Oman. Mid-career, Rodney M. Davis returned stateside and joined Destroyer Squadron 9 in Everett, Washington. Rodney M. Davis deployed another six times, including three tours of duty in support of Counter-Illicit Trafficking in the Southern Pacific Ocean and a final deployment to the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans.
A week after I assumed command of Rodney M. Davis in May 2013, my crew and I took the ship to sea for the first time in 22 months. After sea trials, it was full speed ahead through basic phase training, a Board of Inspection and Survey, and an early deployment. Rodney M. Davis’s final crew of 197 “decommissioning plankowners” honored Sgt. Davis by doing what every Rodney M. Davis Sailor has done over the years – we worked together to prepare the ship for sustained combat operations at sea, and we did everything we could do to make this ship the best it could be. I am in awe of what this crew accomplished in bringing a 28-year old warship back to life to conduct the nation’s business one last time.
Rodney M. Davis’s mission during our sunset deployment was Pacific partnership and theater security cooperation, and I feel Sgt. Davis would be proud of what this final crew accomplished. It was a whirlwind six months as we steamed over 37,000 nautical miles and visited seven countries, but here are a few memories that stand out for me…. Operating with 49 ships from 22 countries during exercise Rim of the Pacific. Welcoming Davy Jones and making a new crop of trusty shellbacks as we crossed the equator. Joining 50 ships from Indonesia, Singapore, and Australia off the coast of New Guinea in the morning fog for a parade of sail. Visiting Tokyo and listening to the stories of Sailors who climbed Mt. Fuji. Looking out across the Malacca Strait from downtown Singapore, and then steaming through the next day. Being the first US ship to visit the Maldives in over four years. Watching the sun set over the Big Buddha statue while at anchor in Phuket, Thailand. Cultural exchanges with hundreds of high school students in Medan, Indonesia. Deck landing qualifications with a Brunei helo in the 20th year of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training. Being in Pearl Harbor on Pearl Harbor Day. And a final homecoming in Everett.
By valor and arms, USS Rodney M. Davis and her crew have answered the call for 28 years. We honored Sgt. Davis by working together to boldly execute the mission, and we’ll carry his Bold Runner spirit with us for the rest of our lives.