It was six years ago that the U.S. Navy announced its newest warship would be named after Sioux City.
The chair of the ship's commissioning committee says the commissioning ceremony, which will take place in Annapolis, Maryland, has been moved to the fall of 2018. "Right now, Lake Michigan is frozen over, so the ship's not going anywhere," said RADM Frank Thorp, USS Sioux City Commissioning Committee. "We expect the lake to thaw out in April. And, right now, tentatively, the ship's looking to go to sea in May for sea trials. That's a big event in the process to get commissioned. If that goes well, they'll come back, and do some more work, and then go into acceptance trials later in the summer. During that time, the crew will be training, and working the systems out so they can really operate as a crew. Now, we're looking at a fall commissioning."
"How important is the commissioning of a U.S. Navy ship?" asked Breen. "The commissioning of a U.S. Navy ship is arguably the most important day in a ship's life," Thorp said. "it's the beginning of the ship. Before commissioning, it's a hunk of metal, and 100 sailors. After commissioning, it's a fighting U.S. warship. ready to defend the nation around the world."
"How important is it for the namesake city to be involved in the commissioning process?" asked Breen. "I can't think of a more important connection for a ship than it's connection to its home city, its namesake city," said Thorp. "Already there are many connections that have been made. Making dinners at the local fire house, participating in meals for veterans at the Hy-Vee grocery store, and providing the honor guard at the Sioux City Musketeers game. Those are the things that make a crew feel really special to be a part of that in their namesake city."
"The fundraising process for the commissioning ceremony has been underway for a few months," said Breen. "What's the goal?" "Our goal is to raise $800,000, and the money is meant, primarily, for three things: the ceremony that accompanies the week-long series of activities that I hope many people from Siouxland will come out to take part in," Thorp said. "The second part is the recognition for the crew. The crew is hand-picked, and are the best of the best sailors that serve on new Navy ships. So, we'll do recognition for the crew. And, then, the third part, which a lot of ships do, but not all of them, we're going to do a "legacy" education fund, which will last for the entire lifetime of the ship to support the crew."
"That would certainly help 'pay it forward' for the sailors who serve our country," said Breen. "We can never pay our sailors enough," Thorp said. "They raise their right hand, and state that they will give their lives for their country. And, although wages are very appropriate in today's defense environment, and today's economic environment, how much do you really pay someone to do that? It's almost not the money, it's the support. So, the "legacy fund" will provide education opportunities for the crew and their families, throughout the life of the ship. Perhaps it could provide $1,000 for a scholarship to a local school to help them to get a degree, or take them that extra step. The money is important, but more important is the message it sends... that the American people support what they're doing."
To contribute to the USS Sioux City's Commissioning Committee, click here.