The U.S. Navy decommissioned the mine countermeasures ship USS Champion (MCM 4) during a ceremony at Naval Base San Diego on Tuesday.
Due to public health safety and restrictions of large public events related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, plankowners and former crew members of the Avenger-class ship virtually celebrated its distinguished history.
Commander, Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center, Rear Adm. Scott Robertson was the guest speaker, with Capt. Hank Kim, Commander, Mine Division TWELVE, presiding.
“With more than 90% of the world’s trade carried by sea, Mine Countermeasures capabilities underwrite freedom of navigation and global commerce that are essential to the world’s economy,” Robertson said. “The Avenger class ships and specifically the USS Champion, have provided robust MCM capability over the past three decades to ensure that freedom of navigation is maintained and enabled the U.S. Navy to conduct maritime operations globally. The Champion has served her crews, Navy and nation well, but now we are approaching the sundown for these MCM ships and the dawn of Littoral Combat Ship Mine Countermeasures systems. While the platforms and capabilities are changing, the one constant is that they have been and will continue to be, operated by intelligent, creative, dedicated, hardworking crews that have always ridden these unique types of ships. You, your shipmates, and your predecessors who have operated and maintained these incredibly important assets have done a tremendous job and have been instrumental to our nation’s naval arsenal of capabilities.”
Commanded by Lt. Matt Yokeley, Champion maintained a crew of eight officers and 76 enlisted Sailors.
“It has been more than an honor to command this ship and this crew over the past two years. It has been a distinct privilege – a privilege to work alongside some of the finest Sailors our Navy and our nation have to offer,” Yokeley said. “Their persistence through one adversity after the next is commendable and truly represents the spirit of the Champion motto, ‘We Accept the Challenge.’ It is now my solemn responsibility, as the ships final captain, to order the final hauling down of the colors and disembarkment of this fine ship.”
Champion was built by Marinette Marine Corporation in Marinette, Wis. and was commissioned in February 1991.
The ship’s operational history includes a five-month deployment in 1999, during which Champion assisted in the evacuation of refugees from Kosovo. Since then, Champion also participated in several mine countermeasures and bi-lateral exercises.
Champion will officially decommission August 25.