Saturday, October 31, 2009

Future USS New York Sets Sail for the Big Apple

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Rachael L. Leslie, Pre-Commissioning Unit New York Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- Future USS New York (LPD 21) left Naval Station Norfolk, Va., Oct. 29 to begin her four-day transit to New York City where the ship's commissioning ceremony is scheduled to take place on Nov. 7.

Part of the ship's mission is to return the 7.5 tons of steel recovered from the wreckage of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers to its home.

"We're going to bring New York home," said Cmdr. Curt Jones, the ship's commanding officer. "The sacred steel in the bow of the ship will get to go home, and we're proud of that."

The ship is scheduled to pull into New York City and sail up the Hudson River where it will dock on Nov. 2. City officials, a fireworks display and private boats anchored in the harbor will welcome USS New York and her crew.

"We'll be sailing up the Hudson on this ship," said Col. Mark Desens, commanding officer of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 26, out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. "If you can't get excited about that, then you just can't get excited.

The ship's motto, "Strength forged through sacrifice. Never forget," speaks of the strong ties the ship and her crew has to the terrible events that took place on 9/11. Because of this connection, the ship will host on board receptions for first responders and their families Nov. 3 and Nov. 8.

"I know they feel a strong kinship to us and the feeling is mutual," added Desens. "I can't wait to meet them."

The ship will be open to the public on Nov. 4, and the 10-day celebration will also include tours, sporting events, theater shows and a visit to the World Trade Center site for crew members and their families.

"About ten percent of this crew is from New York," said Jones. "We like to think of the ship as a transition from that horrible day into what we have now, a global force for good."

Upon her departure from Naval Station Norfolk, the San Antonio-class landing platform dock ship carried 360 Sailors, 186 Marines, 60 naval Reserve personnel and members of both local and international media.

"This crew has done things in the last few weeks that set the standard," said Jones. "They are incredible."

Pre-Commissioning Unit New York is designed for 21st century expeditionary forces and fitted with improved aviation facilities that will have a mix of helicopters and the Marine Corps' new MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. In addition to housing two fully-loaded Landing Craft Air Cushions, the ship's well deck can also hold 14 of the Marine Corps' new Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles, transport combat-ready Marines to their objectives and provide combat support with its 30mm guns.

The ship will depart New York Nov. 12, and return to its homeport in Norfolk, Va., where the crew will begin preparing for their first overseas deployment scheduled for sometime next year.

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