Miami Party To Precede Commissioning Of Navy Destroyer

February 2nd, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Miami Party To Precede Commissioning Of Navy Destroyer

Miami Herald
February 2, 2007
Pg. 1

A state-of-the art warship arrives in Miami today for a weeklong celebration capped by the first-ever commissioning of a Navy vessel at the Miami seaport.
By Carol Rosenberg
Don't be alarmed if you happen to see a warship off the Miami Beach coast this morning. We're not under attack.
The USS Gridley, the newest Navy destroyer to join the U.S. fleet, is tying up at the seaport here in Miami. It'll serve as a backdrop for some Super Bowl festivities, then take center stage with its own coming-out party a week from Saturday.
There will be no mistaking the 9,200-ton, 511-foot, $1 billion state-of-the-art warship for the fun-loving cruise ships that normally are berthed at the port.
Instead of cocktail-clasping vacationers, there'll be white-clad American sailors on deck. You won't see the usual chaise lounges, pool deck, climbing wall. This ship has Tomahawk cruise missile launchers and a .62-caliber gun, which looks like a cannon.
Instead of a playful name, it has ''101'' written on both sides of the bow -- its guided missile destroyer number.
The destroyer is named for a 19th-century naval captain, Charles Gridley, whose warship fired the opening shots of the Spanish-American War.
''One thing's for sure: Nobody will confuse her with the Love Boat,'' said businessman Raul Mas Canosa, a big booster of the military who has been organizing a week-long celebration of the first-ever commissioning to be held in Miami-Dade County.
''I'm just excited to go home and show my friends where I live,'' said Petty Officer Aurora ''Wheels'' Chavez, 22, a native South Floridian working as a Gridley navigator, in a telephone interview Thursday before the warship began sailing south from Jacksonville.
Watching the charts
Chavez, whose parents still live in Homestead, was consulting the ship's global position satellite system on Thursday and preparing the charts for the trip up Government Cut.
As one of several skilled quartermasters aboard the ship, Chavez was assigned duty for this morning's arrival ``on the chart table, telling them where to go and what to do . . . because I'm from Miami.''
A commissioning formally puts a Navy ship into active service in the U.S. fleet -- in this instance a year after Gridley's great-great granddaughter, now living in Colorado, christened her with a crack of a champagne bottle at the Bath Iron Works in Maine.
The first chance to glimpse it will be this morning -- some time after dawn for folks who look east off the beach.
Around 10:30 a.m., stake out South Pointe Park and other extreme South Beach waterfront locations -- to watch the warship head for Government Cut.
Over the weekend and all next week, motorists only need look south off the MacArthur Causeway. But, don't even think about stopping. You risk a ticket for obstruction, says Miami police spokesman Delrish Moss.
''You also risk your life on the MacArthur,'' he warns, ``just because of the way the traffic moves through there.''
So if you want a good look, go to Bicentennial Park in downtown Miami for Saturday's pre-Super Bowl pep rally starting at 4 p.m. and featuring the singer Willy Chirino. The Gridley will be the backdrop.
Boaters should not get any ideas, though. Coast Guard and port authorities are imposing no-go security zones in and around Dodge Island and the Miami Channels with no-kidding punishments for violators -- starting at $32,500 per civil violation and going up to 10 years' imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for a criminal conviction.
The vessel left Maine in January with its 278-member crew aboard. Among them was the skipper, Cmdr. Steve Shinego, who sought out Miami for the event because he grew up in Hallandale Beach and his dad is a retired Miami-Dade police detective.
As skipper, Shinego has been responsible for managing the crew and testing the ship's systems for more than a year.
Select visitors
But don't expect to pop aboard for a quick tour. Post-9/11 security measures mean that if you haven't already received a VIP invitation, your only chance is to see the ship from afar.
Community groups -- veterans, active-duty forces, schools -- have already submitted names and personal details for special visits. And the Feb. 10 commissioning ceremony for about 5,000 is an invitation-only event.
Although the commissioning is a first for Miami, Port Everglades off Fort Lauderdale, easier to secure and further from the city, has hosted such events for years.
But Miami may seem like a more suitable party port for two sailors from South Florida on board, who are both petty officers 2nd Class:
Chavez, the quartermaster responsible for the ship's navigation who grew up in Homestead to parents who worked in Florida tomato fields.
Jermaine Mack, 27, a gunner's mate who grew up in Kendall.
The warship's crew is diverse. Twenty percent are women, like Chavez.
They come from 46 states, were born in 12 different countries. The youngest sailor on board is 18. The oldest on board is 49, a Navy chief, or senior enlisted officer.
Five of the crew members share the same last name: Garcia.
Where and when to see it
This morning, look east off Miami Beach. The USS Gridley should be in sight a half-mile off shore.
Around 10:30 or 11 a.m. today, all along the southernmost part of South Beach, including South Pointe Park, as it goes west toward Government Cut.
Most of the week, look right as you drive to South Beach over the MacArthur Causeway and you'll see her tied up near the cruise ships.
Saturday afternoon and evening, in the turning basin, from Bicentennial Park for the pre-Super Bowl pep rally.
Boaters beware: Don't bother trying to pull your pleasure or fishing boat alongside the destroyer. For security reasons, the Coast Guard is creating a no-go area around it.

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