'USS North Carolina' Officially Joins Fleet

'USS North Carolina' Officially Joins Fleet
May 4th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: 'USS North Carolina' Officially Joins Fleet

'USS North Carolina' Officially Joins Fleet
Wilmington (NC) Star-News
May 4, 2008 By Amy Hotz, Staff Writer
The F/A-18 jet flyover was late, but it could not have come at a better time.
Captain Mark Davis, commanding officer of the new USS North Carolina was in the middle of a sentence and had to stop talking over the noise of the jet engines. But before that happened, he managed to say, “What a beautiful day to once again place the name North Carolina among the fine ships in our Navy. I can’t imagine a more appropriate morning, with the Carolina blue sky . . .”
More than 5,500 people gathered Saturday to witness the commissioning of the fast attack nuclear submarine, the first vessel to carry the name North Carolina since the battleship BB 55 was decommissioned in 1947.
When Capt. Davis asked the veterans to stand and be recognized, it was easy to see most of the crowd had served in the military. Others included their families, the families of the submarine crew and dignitaries.
One of those spectators was Navy veteran Morris Elsen. Dressed in a dark jacket and a hat embroidered with the words “USS Blakely FF-1072,” he remembered a similar, yet smaller, commissioning ceremony in 1971 for the USS Paul. It was in Boston, and Elsen was about to embark on a battleship journey to Vietnam.
The 64-year-old said he was at the ceremony Saturday “to see the continuation of the Navy, to bring back some memories, as well.” His long stint also connected him inexorably to the water, and Elsen now rows regularly in the Wilmington area. Elsen said the commissioning ceremony “emphasizes Wilmington’s connection to the world through the oceans.”
The wife of a Navy veteran, spectator Karla Clarkson also felt a strong connection to the military.
“I’m born and bred in North Carolina,” said Clarkson, 59, now a school nurse at Camp Lejeune. “I had some family members die in the wars, and I think the fact they have the ship named after our state is awesome, and I’m here to see her off.”
The ceremony
Platform guests included U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole, who received the customary 19-gun canon salute, U.S. Representative Mike McIntyre, Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter, President of General Dynamics Electric Boat John Casey, President of Northrop Grumman shipbuilding Michael Petters, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, Rear Admiral Bruce Grooms (commander of submarine group two) and the ship’s sponsor, Linda Bowman, who was escorted by Chief of the Boat David Collins. Capt. Davis escorted Sen. Dole.
The boat’s executive officer, Andrew Hertel announced the speakers and gave a brief history of the other ships to bear the name North Carolina. When he reached the battleship BB 55, the crowd erupted in applause.
“The ceremony today is a time honored tradition that began with the commissioning of our first ship . . . in 1775. Since then, thousands of ships have undergone this transition from a silent hull, to a fully alive warship,” he said.
After a color guard marched out with a flag, the national anthem was sung and Rev. Bob Bauman of Wrightsville Beach United Methodist Church said a prayer, Saffo took the stage. His welcome recognized Wilmington’s rich maritime history and the legacy the new North Carolina is carrying on.
Petters, president of Northrop Grumman shipbuilding, also spoke about the Port City’s maritime history and the 1,000 or so shipbuilders at his plant who are from North Carolina.
“In the 1940s, Newport News Shipbuilding operated North Carolina Shipbuilding right here in Wilmington, building more than 240 Liberty Ships that served in World War II,” he said.
Petters noted that North Carolina, the first ship to launch an airplane by catapult while underway, was built in Newport News and commissioned on May 7,1908.
“It’s not known what was said on that day a century ago, yet I would guess the work of the shipbuilders was praised and the ship’s commander and crew were assured that their ship was, above all, highly capable and safe,” he said. “So it is today with SSN 777 . . . Capt. Davis, as you and your men take your rightful place in the world’s greatest navy, please know that your ship, the USS North Carolina, carries with it quite a legacy. A legacy of more than 122 years of shipbuilding at Newport News, of nearly 200 years of ships bearing the same name, and of more than 400 years of American history in the wonderful state of North Carolina.”
The $2.4 billion North Carolina is the fourth in a new Virginia class of submarines designed for post Cold War missions. It is designed to gather intelligence and to battle threats on land and water (as well as other submarines). It also has special SEAL-deployment capabilities.
According to Casey, president of General Dynamics Electric Boat, the next ship to be completed will be the USS New Hampshire
Secretary of the Navy Winter about today’s concerns and the new submarine’s role in them.
“The feats of the submarine community are performed in stealth, out of the headlines, far from the admiring eyes of a grateful nation, but those exploits are heroic nonetheless. And although we might not read about them until 50 years hence, they are no less deserving of our deepest respect and gratitude,” Winter said.
Bringing the boat to life
After the secretary of the navy spoke, Capt. Davis asked him to place North Carolina in commission. “By the president of the United States,” Winter said, “I hereby place USS North Carolina in commission. May God bless and guide this warship and all those who serve on her.”
As tradition calls for, the captain then ordered the executive officer to hoist the colors and the commissioning pennant. The pennant flown over the new sub was flown over the Battleship North Carolina Memorial on April 9, 2008 to commemorate the 67th anniversary of that ship’s commissioning.
The crew came to attention as the quartermaster hoisted the flags and afterward, the captain read his orders. “From chief of naval personnel to Capt. Mark Davis . . . Upon commissioning of USS North Carolina, report for duty as commanding officer.” The captain then turned and said, “Adm. (Cecil) Haney, the North Carolina is in commission and I have assumed command.”
The executive officer was then ordered to set the watch. He did this by asking Saffo to hand the officer of the deck the long glass, or telescope, a traditional symbol of the officer of the deck’s authority on a ship-of-the-line. A bosun’s whistle was sounded as the glass was handed over.
Finally, the ship’s sponsor, Linda Bowman, wife of retired admiral Frank “Skip” Bowman, spoke the traditional words, “Officers and crew of USS North Carolina. Man our ship and bring her to life.”
With that, the entire boat’s crew yelled, “Hooya, ma’am,” and ran through the seated crowd and down the gangplank. In seconds, they were lined up neatly along the deck of the new USS North Carolina to the sound of a navy band playing Anchors Aweigh.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the crew of the USS North Carolina salute you,” Hertel said. “We are proud to serve in your great navy.”
Staff writer Ana Ribeiro contributed to this report.

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