U.S. Navy, D.M. Young
The Interim Afloat Forward Staging Base Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) was officially retired from the U.S. Navy on 14 October after 46 years of service. The 16,000-ton, 569-foot Ponce entered service in 1971 and was designated LPD-15 for her first 40 years, serving as the youngest of 12 Austin-class amphibious transport docks. She took part in numerous humanitarian and disaster relief deployments and helped transport forces during operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Initially slated for decommissioning in 2011, plans were instead announced to rapidly convert the Ponce as an afloat forward staging base for mine countermeasures, coastal patrol, and small-boat operations in the Persian Gulf region. Conversion from LPD to AFSB kicked off in February 2012 and by July 2012 she was already on scene in Bahrain with the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. She remained on-station until relieved by the newly commissioned and purpose-built expeditionary sea base USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3).