ARCHIVE STORY: Sioux City delegation tours USS Sioux City ahead - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

ARCHIVE STORY: Sioux City delegation tours USS Sioux City ahead of Saturday christening, launch

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Nearly two years ago, the keel was laid for the ship that would become the USS Sioux City. Saturday, the USS Sioux City will be christened, and launched, from a shipyard in northern Wisconsin.

Standing at the bow, decorated with patriotic bunting, the USS Sioux City is impressive. It measures 378 feet long. That's longer than a football field. It weighs 8-million pounds. "Massive, massive ship," said Nick McGowan, Sioux City.

More impressive? The words "Sioux City" stamped on the stern. It's a sight that wasn't lost on even the youngest tourists. "The ship, itself, was truly extraordinary," said Nick.

14-year-old Nick McGowan, and his 12-year-old brother, Jake, joined their dad, Chris, on the 10-hour drive to see the launch of the ship named after their hometown. "We're pretty fortunate to come to see the USS Sioux City in Wisconsin," said Jake McGowan, Sioux City. "It was pretty cool!"
 
That's despite the darkness. This close to launch, the electrical system is shut down. In fact, when the USS Sioux City launches, Commander Ken Lieberman says it will only be about 80-percent complete. The rest of the work gets done on the water. 

The launch is also a point of personal pride for Commander Lieberman, who has watched this ship be built from the keel all the way up. "It's going to be an amazing experience, tomorrow, to see her put in the water for the first time and start the active part of putting construction behind us and starting the trials and finishing touches to bring her to the fleet and to defend this country," said CDR Ken Lieberman, USS Sioux City.

For Chris McGowan, who's a military veteran himself, the Sioux City offers a powerful reminder for future generations of the important role the U.S. military plays. "This is really something that we should be teaching the next generation," said Chris McGowan, Sioux City.  It's a powerful example."

Friday, the Navy conducted one off its oldest rituals that surround the launch of a ship. The "mast stepping" ceremony involved placing commemorative items into a capsule that will be welded to the USS  Sioux City's radar mast.

The practice comes from Roman times. Because early sea travel was dangerous, coins were placed under the ship's mast so the crew could pay for safe  passage across the river Styx, into the afterlife, if they died on the journey.

Friday, the ship's sponsor, Mary Winnefeld, put a guardian angel and a peace dove into the cylinder. Mayor Bob Scott added a commemorative Sioux City coin. Siouxland Chamber president Chris McGowan added several tokens including a coin commemorating the life and service of Sioux City native and Medal of Honor recipient Colonel George "Bud" Day.

The christening ceremony starts at 10:00am Saturday. The launch into the Menominee River will follow at 11:30am. Friday afternoon, tug boats came up the Menominee River to break up the ice around the platform to allow for a  smooth launch.

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