AGF 3 La Salle
USS La Salle (AGF 3) was formally “laid to rest” during a pierside decommissioning ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk, on May 27, 2005.
On February 22, 1964, USS LA SALLE was commissioned as an Amphibious Transport Dock (LPD) and joined her sister ships, USS RALEIGH and USS VANCOUVER, as the newest class of amphibious ships in the Navy. Mobility, flexibility and versatility were the trademarks of these ships. Each could transport over 800 combat-ready Marines, along with their equipment, vehicles, ammunition, fuel and cargo, at high speeds to the site of an amphibious operation. A variety of boats, cranes, elevators and conveyors, plus the ability to embark helicopters, enabled these operations to be conducted quickly and efficiently.
LA SALLE's operations have been far from routine and she has demonstrated her flexibility in numerous, varied operations. In 1965, she served as the flagship for Atlantic Fleet Amphibious Forces during the Dominican Crisis and participated in the evacuation of Construction Battalion SIX from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In 1966, LA SALLE became the first ship of her size to successfully recover and return a Project GEMINI space capsule to Cape Canaveral.
During 1969, LA SALLE served as the test platform for the prototype AV-8 HARRIER VTOL fighter-bomber. In January, 1972, after an extensive overhaul, LA SALLE was designated as a Miscellaneous Command Ship (AGF) and assumed duties for Commander, Middle East Force. Painted white to reflect the hot sun, "The Great White Ghost of the Arabian Coast" steamed an average of 55,000 miles annually calling on ports in Africa, Asia and the Middle East in support of COMIDEASTFOR.
In 1979, LA SALLE assisted in the evacuation of 260 American and foreign national civilians from the Iranian seaport of Bandar Abbas and became the focal point of U.S. activity in the Persian Gulf at the outset of the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The combination of this crisis and the outset of the Iran-Iraq War, which began in 1980, brought about a dramatic increase in the command and support responsibilities placed on the ship and her crew.
In November 1980, LA SALLE was relieved by USS CORONADO and returned stateside for the first time in 8 1/2 years. Upon arrival, she began a major overhual which included increasing her air conditioning capacity, replacing and upgrading the ship's four turbine generators, adding an extensive electronics and communications package and replacing two 3" gun mounts with the MK 15 Close-In Weapons Systems (CIWS).
LA SALLE returned to the Arabian Gulf and assumed flagship duties for COMIDEASTFOR in June 1983. In 1984, LA SALLE embarked three CH-53 helicopters and associated equipment from Helicopter Mine Countermeasure Squadron 14 to conduct minesweep operations in the Red Sea in response to anonymous attempts to disrupt the free passage of shipping.
In the beginning of 1986, LA SALLE conducted contingency operations off the coast of Yemen, in the Gulf of Aden, during the country's civil war. With the onset of the Gulf Tanker War, LA SALLE continued to serve as the command platform for COMIDEASTFOR, responsible for coordinating force operations in the Arabian Gulf. Throughout 1987, LA SALLE served as the command platform for all Arabian Gulf Convoy Escort Operations. In May 1987, LA SALLE provided the primary Fire Fighting Rescue Assistance and crew support to USS STARK following the Iraqi missile attack.
In September 1987, LA SALLE acted as the launch platform for the assault on the Iranian minelaying vessel "IRAN AJR". Crews and assault craft from LA SALLE conducted the assault on the vessel and effected the detention of its crew while LA SALLE's prize crews manned "IRAN AJR". LA SALLE was temporarily relieved of Flagship duties in late February 1988 and began a 7,000-mile transit to Yokosuka, Japan, where she completed a Drydocking Selected Restricted Availability in August 1988. She arrived back in the Arabian Gulf in October 1988 and assumed duties in support of the newly established Commander, Joint Task Force Middle East.
In January 1991, LA SALLE assumed the responsibility of commanding and coordinating the multi-national Maritime Intercept Force during Operation Desert Shield. At the request of Kuwait's recognized government, naval forces in the Arabian Gulf and Red Sea intercepted merchant shipping and vigorously enforced the sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. During this time, LA SALLE concurrently served as flagship for Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Central Command.
During Operation Desert Storm, LA SALLE returned to the United States to begin a 17-month overhaul in preparation for its next assignment as The United States SIXTH Fleet Flagship. During the overhaul, LA SALLE received extensive upgrades to its communications, and command and control capabilities. A floating barge, utilized as crew living quarters and an office complex, was fitted into the well deck and upper vehicle of the flagship in order to support the staff of COMSIXTHFLT during LA SALLE's newest assignment as the Flagship.
Since assuming responsibilities as Flagship to Commander, SIXTH Fleet on November 8, 1994, LA SALLE has proudly served throughout the Mediterranean and Black Seas in her role of supporting COMSIXTHFLT and Strike Force South. Additionally, LA SALLE's diplomatic role fosters goodwill and understanding between the United States and Western Asian, Middle Eastern and Southern European Mediterranean countries.
LA SALLE's accomplishments in the Mediterranean theater include her participation in Joint Task Force FLEXIBLE ANVIL, Joint Task Force NOBLE ANVIL and Operation ALLIED FORCE in support of the NATO response to Serbian aggression in the province of Kosovo in the Spring of 1999. From June to December 1999, LA SALLE underwent a Drydock Selective Restricted Availability (DSRA) in Toulon, France, returning to sea in early 2000.
In 2001, LA SALLE received a three month Selective Restricted Availability (SRA) in Valetta, Malta and participated in a Black Sea deployment. After the tragic events of September 11th, LA SALLE became fully engaged in the war on terrorism serving as SIXTH Fleet's big deck supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
LA SALLE continued to meet every challenge, complete every mission, and fulfill all tasking. "A Tradition of Team Work" for the new century.
One of the ship's last major assignments was supporting NATO-led efforts to control the international waters off Greece during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.
The ship received 35 unit awards, including six Meritorious Unit Commendation Medals, six Navy "E" ribbons, four Armed Forces Service Medals, four Navy Unit Commendation Medals, three Navy Expeditionary Medals, three Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals, two Humanitarian Service Medals, one Combat Action Ribbon, one NATO Medal, one Kosovo Campaign Medal, a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, and a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
USS La Salle (AGF 3) was formally "laid to rest" during a pierside decommissioning ceremony 27 May 2005. La Salle was relieved of its flagship duties by USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20) during a change of flagship ceremony in Gaeta, Feb. 25. The ship arrived in Norfolk March 17 for the decommissioning process.
The ship's crest combines features relation to the explorer, the city, and the ship's mission. The upper right corner bears the charges from the coat-of-arms of La Salle's family, an eight-pointed star and a rabbit. The fort on the lower left side represents Fort St. Louis, Which was built by La salle in 1682 on the banks of the Illinois River. The elevated ground on which the fort stands is known as "Starved Rock." The city of La Salle is not far from the site of this fort. The background anchor symbolizes the Navy and the sea; the motto across the anchor's base, "Facilitas Ad Marem," translates to "Versatility at Sea."
Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle
La Salle's namesake is the city of La Salle, Illinois, which in turn is named after Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the famous French explorer. La Salle is most noted for his travels through the Mississippi River basin .His efforts formed the basis for the French territory later acquired by the fledgling United States known as the Louisiana Territory. La Salle, Illinois is located in the prosperous agricultural and industrial Illinois River Valley in north-central Illinois. Founded in 1827 when the Illinois-Michigan Canal was planned, it was incorporated as a city in 1832. Abraham Lincoln enlisted in the Army at La Salle. This city of 120,000 citizens has been a virtual crossroads of American History.
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