For the final time during his 22 years of service, Chief Builder Todd DeCosse of the U.S. Navy Saturday requested permission to go ashore.
DeCosse, a Hastings native and Roberts, Wis., resident, was joined by about 90 members of his family, friends and Navy personnel in the Roberts Park Building to complete his 22-year Navy career. Twenty-one seamen in uniform were present, along with four retired seamen.
A long career in one job, military or otherwise, is not a common occurrence anymore, remarked Commander Justin M. Shineman of the Navy Recruiting District in Minneapolis. Shineman was the keynote speaker at the hour-long ceremony.
"You leave knowing you gave 22 years of honorable service," Shineman told DeCosse.
Throughout his career with the Navy, DeCosse has held five different jobs, according to Shineman's count.
DeCosse started his Navy career by enlisting in February 1987, nine months after graduating from Hastings High School.
His first stop with the Navy was for training in San Diego, from which he meritoriously advanced to construction apprentice, and followed that with Builder "A" School in Port Hueneme, Calif.
His first command as a builder apprentice was with Construction Battalion Unit Four Zero Five in San Diego. In November 1989, he was transferred to Adak, Alaska, where he served as the builder shop foreman.
There isn't much to do at that base, said the second guest speaker, Russ Blakeley, who served with DeCosse.
Blakeley said he didn't re-enlist 16 years ago, while DeCosse stayed in the Navy.
"Again, thank you and congratulations," Blakeley told DeCosse at the ceremony.
Four years later, DeCosse reported to recruiting duty in Little Rock, Ark. That was quite a change, Shineman said.
A seaman in the audience confirmed Shineman's statement.
"We don't build, and we don't fight, sir," the seaman said with a slight smile.
DeCosse returned to building in July 1996. He deployed to Rota, Spain and Estonia, and then was hand-selected as the local processing official for the civic action team in the Republic of Palau.
In June 1999, DeCosse transferred to Great Lakes, Ill., to serve as the assistant operations/project manager for tasking aboard recruit/naval training in Command Great Lakes. In July 2002, DeCosse reported to the Naval Support Unit at the State Department, where he served as operations and training chief, and deployed to more than 20 countries around the world.
His final transfer was to Navy Recruiting District Minneapolis, serving as recruiter in charge and marketing supervisor.
DeCosse recruited scores of enlistees to take his place.
"You can rest easy knowing you made the Navy a better place," Shineman said.
Among his awards are the Navy Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (five awards), Navy Unit Commendation, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Navy "E" Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal (six awards), National Defense Medal (two awards), Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (two awards), Navy Overseas Service Ribbon (three awards), Navy Recruiting Ribbon (two awards), Expert Rifle Medal and Expert Pistol Medal.
Letters and accolades from President Obama, former President George W. Bush, governors Tim Pawlenty and Jim Doyle, and other high-ranking Navy officers echoed Shineman's praise for DeCosse.
A ceremonial flag-passing echoed DeCosse's advancements throughout his career. In a slow progression, a folded flag was passed up through the ranks of six seamen, one to represent each portion of DeCosse's career. Once the folded flag reached him, DeCosse presented it to his daughter, Corynn.
DeCosse, himself, was brief in his remarks. During his time at the podium, he thanked his family and everyone else in attendance.
In the final spoken moments of the ceremony, Non-Commissioned Construction Mechanic Jesse Pippin read "The Watch":
"Today we are here to say 'Shipmate ... the watch stands relieved; relieved by those you have trained, guided and led; shipmate, you stand relieved; we have the watch."
With that, DeCosse walked through a long line of active and retired Navy personnel to civilian life. He will begin a career with the Army Corps of Engineers in Hastings this month.
DeCosse and his wife, Venessa, have three daughters, Keira, Regan and Corynn.