Families and friends were on hand to welcome SHENANDOAH to her home port of Norfolk, ending the month-long maiden voyage from San Diego. Unaccustomed to December’s chill, everyone was soon thawed by the warmth of the reception.

The ship’s 7 December 1983 arrival at Naval Station Norfolk gave the crew less than 10 days in which to conduct a Training and Readiness Evaluation in preparation for Refresher Training and to make final preparations for the ship’s ceremonial commissioning on 17 December. The “pomp and circumstance” of SHENANDOAH’s launching ceremony was merely a small precursor to what lay ahead for ship and crew.

Soundings: Vol. 9 No. 50 • December 15, 1983

SHENANDOAH| Ceremonial Commissioning

This formal event saw over 4,500 VIPs, officials and guests attend the ceremony and reception. The principal speaker for the commissioning was the Honorable J. Kenneth Robinson, United States Congressman representing the Seventh District in Virginia.

Other platform guests included Commander William Ethridge, Ship’s Chaplin; former Virginia Senator Harry F. Byrd, Jr.; Mr Robert Jacobsen, Superintendent Shenandoah National Park; Mr. Al Lutter, Vice President of Marketing, National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, San Diego; Mr. W. Graham Claytor, former Secretary of the Navy; and Mrs. Frances Claytor, Ship’s Sponsor.

Remarks were also made by Navy representatives Captain Edmund C. Mortimer, Naval Sea Systems Command; Captain Charles W. O’Reilly, Commander Service Group Two; Vice Admiral Edward Briggs, Commander Naval Surface Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet; and Captain Thomas M. McNicholas, Jr., Commanding Officer. The ceremony was officiated by Commander David F. Lines, Executive Officer.

SHENANDOAH| Commissioning Reception

A reception honoring these platform guests and VIPs from the Shenandoah Valley and National Park was held at the Armed Forces Staff College, Norfolk, the evening before the ceremony.

SHENANDOAH| Formal Navy Ball

Following the day’s events, official guests and crew members and their families enjoyed a gala dinner-dance at the Virginia Beach Pavilion.

May she have a long and productive life and may we, her first crew, together with her many supporters gathered here tonight, serve and support her proudly and honorably, and set her on a course which will contribute to keeping our Navy ‘strong for peace’ (fortis pro pace).”

—C.O.’s Toast, 17 December 1983

Click on the image of the Commissioning Book above to view/download the high resolution eBook.

SHENANDOAH| Plank-Owners

Captain McNicholas spoke of many things during SHENANDOAH’s Official Commissioning on 15 Aug 1983. Most poignant of his keynotes — described in great detail — the roles and responsibilities of the “Plank-Owner” crew of a United States Ship.

He projected her future all the way to her end. He put it to us very simply: if she starts off with a virtuous and honorable crew, then all crew members that follow, through the observations of the plank-owners, good or bad, right or wrong, doing one’s duty, or skating; will transcend to the behavior of the following crew throughout SHENANDOAH’s service. The Captain’s words created a serious responsibility for our shoulders to bare that day; each challenged to become 4.0 sailors in order to keep her course steady and true.

If we have what it takes to be a Plank-Owner, then we must become doers, and teachers of doers, united as one crew, who will not only keep her ship-worthy, and interdependently help her to evolve throughout her journeys “under the stars”; to become the biggest, baddest, “Tough(est) Tender” in the fleet. History has provided us with proof of her valor.

Captain Darling reported within the Ship’s Decommissioning book that SHENANDOAH took part in the U.S. Navy’s destroyer tender first-ever “Underway IMAV.” Most are familiar with underway replenishment (UNREP), however two ships steaming side-by-side, in very close proximity, in order to perform an I.M.A.V. is the icing on the cake; forged within a dynasty initiated by Captain and crew on 15 August 1983.

Plankowner Certificate ~ USS Shenandoah (AD 44)

Plankowner Certificate| Reproductions

Digital reproductions of SHENANDOAH’s Plankowner Certificates are available through PDF file download from TheToughTender’s Google Drive account.

The printed size of the certificate is 15-1/2″ tall, by 20″ wide. The digital file has been produced in full dimension, and is of extremely high resolution; file size approximately 80 MB.

Photoshop may be used to open the PDF file, and you may personalize your own certificate. The typeface is Old English Regular, font color #000000, size 36 to 42 pt depending on length of name, 25 pt horizontal character spacing, and in title-case; for example, “BMCM Dave S. Jones.”

Many office supply stores offer printing services utilizing a “plotter” for large prints. You may transfer the certificate PDF file to a thumb/flash/USB peripheral device and take it to the office supply store once personalized.

Plotter size chart:

  • U.S. Architectural – ARCH D: 24″ x 36″
  • U.S. Engineering – ANSI D: 22″ x 34″
  • ISO – A1: 23.39″ x 33.11″
  • US Letter – D: 22″ x 34″

Download Plankowner Certificate Template


Certificates may be personalized upon request, however the original certificate has a red, white and blue ribbon folded and sealed under gold embossing. We don’t have the ability to reproduce the ribbon or embossing.

The work involved in producing a digital personalized reproduction is free; it’s on the house. The cost of having it printed is entirely up to someone other than us. We can produce the personalized digital file, then transfer it to Google Drive where it may be downloaded.

Use the form below to provide the necessary information. Please allow one business week to receive notification that your digital Plankowner certificate is ready for download.

Personalized Plankowner Certificate order form:

Rate & Rank at time of Commissioning:
First Name:
Middle Initial:
Last Name:
Special Requirements:
The form has been submitted successfully!
There has been some error while submitting the form. Please verify all form fields again.

Please contact the Yeoman if you need assistance.

SHENANDOAH| 1st Christmas

USS SHENANDOAH was judged best decorated destroyer tender in the annual ComNavBase Decorama holiday lighting program.

Beverly Manor Nursing Home

More than 60 crew members spent a special afternoon with residents of Beverly Manor Nursing Home in Portsmouth, VA. They helped serve lunch in the dining room and at bedsides. They sang Christmas songs, and listened to stories about the Navy, as well as early Norfolk and Portsmouth.

Beverly Manor Nursing Home • Letter of Appreciation

SHENANDOAH’s Secret Santa

Petty Officer First Class ET1(SW) Vincent Marinelli’s incredible beard-growing abilities, along with some natural and additional padding, a long hair bleaching session with several of the female crew, and Marinelli was transformed into SHENANDOAH’s first secret Santa.

The residents of the Beverly Manor Nursing Home were also surprised by a visit by SHENANDOAH’s Santa. However, Santa and his Duty-Elf sleigh driver could not stay long, as they had a long drive ahead of them, and a lot of homes to visit throughout the night.

SHENANDOAH’s crew purchased and then wrapped so many gifts that Santa’s sleigh (18-person cargo duty van) was packed completely full. Santa then headed for the Shenandoah Valley with his Elf, and spent all night delivering presents to children throughout the Valley.