USS Austin (LPD-4) - 1980s


Austin sailed on 30 January 1980 for another Mediterranean deployment. During this trip, she touched at Lisbon, Portugal; Cartagena, Spain; Athens, Greece; and Naples, Genoa, and Venice, Italy. The ship returned to her home port on 11 July. After a brief respite, she sailed for South America on 15 October and participated in Operation Unites, and Operation Allied Caribe 80. The warship took part in an amphibious operation with Brazilian naval forces. Operation Allied Caribe 80 was held in the Antilles in conjunction with units from the United Kingdom, Canada and the Netherlands. Austin later provided hurricane relief assistance to the inhabitants of Dominica. The ship returned to Norfolk 7 December, and she continued operations from that port into 1981.

On 3 February 1981, Austin put to sea from Norfolk on her way to Morehead City to embark Marine Corps units. From Morehead City, she headed for the Arctic Circle near Norway where she participated in cold weather training. The warship returned to Norfolk on 17 April and resumed normal operations out of that port. Late in June, she voyaged south and west to the gulf coast of Florida to perform a special project for the Chief of Naval Operations. During the trip home, Austin visited Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Nassau, Bahamas. Arriving back at Norfolk on 8 July, she resumed a normal schedule of operations until the beginning of September when she entered the yard at the Norfolk Shipbuilding and Drydock Company to begin an 11-month overhaul.

Austin completed the repair period on 2 August 1982 and spent most of the remainder of the year undergoing post-overhaul inspections and examinations at Norfolk. She began 1983 with a cruise to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to conduct post-overhaul refresher training. During the early part of February, the warship took an extended break from training to make a 12-day port visit to New Orleans, Louisiana, for the Mardi Gras festival. Austin resumed refresher training on 19 February and concluded it 1 March. In March and early April, she operated out of Norfolk and then spent the last three weeks of April in port preparing to deploy to the troubled eastern Mediterranean. On 5 May Austin set sail for Morehead City where she embarked the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines (BLT 1/8), and the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU 24) before heading out across the Atlantic.

The warship arrived in the Mediterranean late in May and disembarked the Marine Corps units at Beirut, Lebanon, where a guerilla-style civil war among a virtual rainbow of factions complicated by military incursions on the parts of Syria and Israel, had been in progress at varying levels of intensity for some time. In September 1982, the assassination of President-elect Bachir Gemayel touched off atrocities that brought a multinational peacekeeping force into the country soon thereafter. In May 1983, the marines of BLT 1/8 and MAU 24 replaced the part of that force protecting Beirut International Airport. Austin, for her part, remained in the vicinity providing support for the troops, anchoring nearby during the day and steaming out to sea at night.

As tense as the situation in Lebanon was, ship and marines quickly settled into a routine. Too quickly perhaps, for on 23 October 1983, a terrorist shattered that routine when he drove an explosives-laden truck into the lobby of the headquarters of the Marine Corps units stationed ashore. The detonation of the mobile bomb destroyed the headquarters, killed 241 men and injured over 100 others. Austin responded to the emergency quickly by providing men to stand security watches and help in the search for survivors. In November, the amphibious transport dock departed the eastern Mediterranean and began the voyage home. On 7 December, she disembarked the remnants of BLT 1/8 and MAU 24 at Morehead City. The following day Austin put into port at Little Creek, Virginia, and began postdeployment leave and upkeep.

The warship remained in port at Little Creek for the first six weeks of 1984. On 13 February, she put to sea to participate in a minesweeping exercise off the coast of North Carolina before heading for Scandinavian waters. During the Atlantic transit and during her time in the Arctic waters near Norway, Austin and other Navy warships joined elements of the navies of Canada, Denmark, Norway, and the United Kingdom in conducting the two-part NATO Exercise "United Effort Teamwork '84."

Following the conclusion of the exercise, the amphibious transport dock made ceremonial visits to ports in Norway, the Netherlands, and in the United Kingdom. She returned to Little Creek on 28 April after a brief stop at Morehead City to disembark marines and unload their equipment.

In June, at the conclusion of the usual post-deployment stand down, Austin embarked upon a schedule of normal operations along the east coast. That employment occupied her time for the remainder of 1984 and during the first half of 1985. On 2 July 1985, she made the brief voyage to Morehead City where she embarked Marine Corps units and their equipment for another tour of duty with the Sixth Fleet. The amphibious transport dock arrived in Rota, Spain, on 13 July and entered the Mediterranean Sea the following day. While the problems in Lebanon continued, direct American military involvement there had ceased. Thus Austin accomplished her 1985 Mediterranean deployment in a more routine fashion. It consisted of bilateral and multilateral exercises punctuated by visits to ports throughout the Mediterranean. She completed turnover procedures at Rota, Spain, 4–7 December and then put to sea for the voyage home. Austin stopped at Morehead City on 18–19 December to disembark marines and stood into Norfolk on 20 December.

In January 1986, the amphibious transport dock began a restricted availability at pierside in Norfolk. She finished repairs late in April and resumed normal operations out of Norfolk. Austin pursued those activities until the middle of August. She departed Norfolk 12 August and, after embarking Marine Corps units at Morehead City the next day, set sail for northern Europe and another series of exercises with forces of other NATO nations. The cruise – highlighted by visits to Norway, Denmark, Germany, and England – lasted through the first week in October. On 8 October, Austin stood out of Dover, England, and shaped a course back to the United States.

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