Wisconsin ships more than just cheese
D. A. Sharpe
December 6, 2010
The U.S Navy has been developing a new fighting ship to be the most mobile, fastest and versatile fighting ship to date. The Littoral Combat Ship has had two editions made so far, the Freedom and the Independence. The third ship is the LCS 3, which is being named after Fort Worth, the first of these ships to be named for a city.
Our, Congressional Representative Kay Granger, former mayor of Fort Worth, was instrumental in wining for Fort Worth the honor of being named as one of these new high tech fighting vessels. The USS Fort Worth has been under construction for some 20 months, and the 3,000 ton $480 million ship, at 80% completion, was now ready for Christening and launching into the water on this December 4, 2010 at the Lockheed Martin facilities on the Menominee River in Marinette, Wisconsin. The River empties out into Green Bay. Ultimately the USS Fort Worth will sail out through Green Bay into Lake Michigan, then through the Erie Canal through to the Atlantic Ocean. Its most likely homeport later will be San Diego.
Activities for this historic event took place on Friday and Saturday, December 3 and 4. Many months ago the USS Fort Worth Committee was formed through the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce to promote the naming of the new ship after Fort Worth and to be a catalyst for plans of ceremonies and events that would take place as a show of support by the Metropolitan Fort Worth citizens. Former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams, and a long time Tarrant and Parker County businessman in the automobile industry, heads the Committee.
There were 100 citizens from Fort Worth and surrounding counties who were selected to attend the Christening events. A Lockheed Airlines aircraft (a B737-700) took 60 of us on a flight of truly first class experience. We departed Alliance Airport in Fort Worth early Friday morning and arrived in Wisconsin around noon.
My presence in the group was as leader of a five-member contingent of Admirals in the Texas Navy Association, specifically of the Admiral Chester W. Nimitz Squadron of the Texas Navy. We were able to have our spouses with us. Actually two of the Admirals are married to each other. So, our Texas Navy group was eight of the 100. Those Admirals were Robert Callanan, Robson Ranch, Denton County; Jack Dyess, Diane Bransom-Dyess and Jim Sutton, all of Haltom City, Tarrant County; and myself, hailing from Aurora, Wise County. All three Haltom City Admirals are members or former members of the Haltom City Council. Admiral Callanan is the immediate Past Vice President of the Texas Navy Association. I am the Executive Officer of the Nimitz Squadron.
We were taken to the Lockheed Martin Ship Yards for the Mast Stepping ceremonies. That is an occasion whereby various coins and memorabilia are put into a metal container, which is then welded under the first step on the mast of the ship as a gesture of good fortune. There were perhaps 1,000 in attendance for this.
After that, we returned to the hotel for a Reception to honor Representative Kay Granger, who was named the shipÕs sponsor for it s lifetime of service and even after it's de-commissioned! Then we were bussed to a country club where a magnificent meal was laid out before us. There was an evening of speeches by various luminaries who are part of this whole process.
The second day of the weekend was all about the USS Fort Worth Christening. We had an early start from the hotel Saturday morning, as the ceremonies were to begin at 10:00 AM (ten hundred hours for the language of the military people). We gathered in a huge hanger, which seemed as though it had 1,500 or more people in it. There was an extensive agenda of speakers making remarks. Two Wisconsin Congressmen spoke as well as our own Kay Granger. Several military people of high rank spoke, as well as executives from the Lockheed - Martin team of contractors who built this marvelous ship.
The Littoral Combat Ship is the smallest ship in the arsenal of the US Navy. However, as you stand near it, it seems huge. Its length is 489 feet and its height is 113 feet from keel to the top of the mast. It has two gasoline turbine engines and two diesel engines. The ship is not powered with the traditional blade, but rather by jets streams of water being forced out the rear of the ship. Over 100,000 horsepower is generated, enabling the shipÕs speeds at over 40 knots per hour (thatÕs over 46 miles per hour). Actually, the real horsepower and speed are classified and obviously are greater than these published figures.
The climatic event of the weekend was departing the hanger and gathering at the pier where the USS Fort Worth was dry docked, waiting to be Christened and launched into the Menominee River. A very high scaffolding rig was present to enable Representative Granger and the three Matrons of Honor (her daughter and her two daughters-in-law) and a couple of Naval personnel and Lockheed officials to be at the level suitable for crashing the traditional bottle of Champagne. The act was accomplished efficiently and without any snags. Immediately after the broken bottle was smashed on the bow, the ship started its slow, but rapidly increasing slide off to the side and into the River.
The awesome feeling one had, standing close by as we spectators were, was almost overwhelming. To see such a large mass as this ship, seemingly toppling over into the River was breath taking. Amazingly, the ship righted it self like a fishing cork with no trouble at all!
Various significants concluded the awe-inspiring day after the busses returned us to the Country Club for a final lunch and round of accolades and remarks. Rear Admiral David Lewis commented that heÕd never seen a ship Christening take place that had as much enthusiasm and expressed support from the home area after which it was being named. Fort Worth and area truly represented itself well in this gracious and strong show of support for our US Navy and its mission to defend our nation.
The next 15 months or so will be a testing time and the completing of equipping the ship with all the high tech equipment and weaponry needed. The actual Commissioning with the first crew and the shipÕs first mission will be in mid-2012. The USS Fort Worth Committee of citizens continues to work for its namesake, seeking to have the Commissioning take place in Texas. Many, many more Texans could be present for that.
Other activities are taking place to enhance the future of Fort WorthÕs association with the crew and its captains. The Ephraim M. Daggett Chapter in Fort Worth of the Sons of the Republic of Texas is studying a plan to award best sailors each year in some way. ItÕs my honor to be on that committee. My Nimitz Squadron also is studying a plan to give a replica of the 1836 Colt Revolver to the ship. The Texas Navy of the Republic of Texas was the first military organization to purchase ColtÕs revolutionary new handgun. Citizens are developing scholarships and other continuing activities. Friends, this USS Fort Worth ship is really a BIG DEAL!
Dwight Albert Sharpe
805 Derting Road East
Aurora, TX 76078-3712