MAYPORT, Fla. -- The piers at Mayport are emptying as the Navy retires its fast frigates, the USS Underwood this day and the USS Klakring later this month.
That leaves just 14 ships homeported at Mayport. The base can handle up to 34 ships. Recent budget cuts will reduce maintenance contracts for local shipbuilders in the near future.
But a rebound is on the horizon. An amphibious ready group of three ships is headed to Mayport late this year and in 2014, according to Mayport's commanding officer Captain Doug Cochrane. Cochrane is optimistic about Mayport's future.
"On the national level, the Secretary of the Navy has voted, he has voted on the strategic importance of Mayport with his checkbook, and that is the Iwo Jima ARG coming in, a patrol craft squadron coming in. The littoral combat ships coming in, the future of the surface navy is coming right here to Mayport. "
ET3 Carl Miller is shipping out after serving on the Underwood but will be serving on the USS New York which as far as he knows will bring him right back here to Mayport soon.
"Virginia is pretty nice, but I am glad I am coming back down here so, it's pretty nice."
Mayport is the leading candidate to get 14 littoral combat ships beginning in 2016, but no final decision has been made. But if you listen to Vice Admiral Richard Hunt, who was a guest speaker at the decommissioning of the Underwood, it all but seems like a done deal.
"I think Mayport is still solid in the U.S. Navy's inventory of great homeports, we remain committed to keeping ships here, you are going to see that I think when the littoral combat ships are produced in numbers, we'll get the LCS in here do what the ffg's have done for the last 30 years down here in Mayport."