Friday, October 30, 2009

Yesterday USS New York (LPD 21) left its homeport of Norfolk, Virginia for New York City, and it is the last time the ship will set sail as a pre-commissioned unit (PCU). Prior to a ship's commissioning, it is classified as a PCU; so what will change on November 7, when she will be officially commissioned a U.S. Navy warship? Nothing but the title, because it is the ship's crew and the ship builders who built her that make-up the heart and soul of what truly has become a living, breathing military asset.

Often times we don't think of our Naval forces in that way. When we hear in the media about ships fighting off pirates near the Horn of Africa or providing humanitarian assistance for tsunami and hurricane relief, we conjure up images of large deck platforms of grey steel in our minds. But like any military unit that is tasked to carry out the orders of the President of the United States, it's the sons and daughters of the American people who ultimately make that call to action, whether serving boots on the ground, flying through air and space, or sailing on the deck plates. In fact, Sailors in the U.S. Navy serve in all of those capacities -- that's why I think serving in the Navy is the coolest job around.

Only three more days until our newest Navy ship carrying Sailors and Marines on board pulls into the City. I'm looking forward to the crew members sharing some of their heart and soul with New Yorkers -- always makes for a festive occasion in a place where people know first-hand about duty and sacrifice.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I'm headed to the JFK airport in just a couple of hours to welcome home my new deputy after he served a six-month deployment, boots-on-the-ground, in Baghdad. Needless to say it will be quite an emotional event joined by his wife, family and close friends in the area. He, like me, is a Navy public affairs officer, and I am very much looking forward to hearing the "inside scoop" on how operations, specifically military public affairs and media relations, are fairing in our nation's War in Iraq.

The timing of his return is impeccable. At the peak of all the planning of fanfare and festivities surrounding the USS New York (LPD 21) commissioning, this moment gives me time to pause and reflect on exactly why this commissioning is so special. With seven and a half tons of World Trade Center steel in its hull, this unique ship unites our nation's past, present and future like no other, because so long as we have dedicated forces fighting to preserve freedom the world over, we will always have cause to celebrate those who have taken part in that preservation of freedom -- through an election-win, or a ship's commissioning, or even a welcome home gathering.

My deputy, a native New Yorker, is returning home safely, and we have all the reason in the world to be grateful and proud of his service to our nation. Welcome home, Sean!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Today, USS New York (LPD 21) pulls into its new home port in Norfolk, Va. for the very first time. I can only imagine the excitement brewing over this special homecoming on this soon-to-be Hallows Eve. Though, as an adopted New Yorker, I trust that the Norfolk reception won't be half as exciting or well attended as when she sails up the Hudson for the very first time!

At 7:30 a.m. on Monday, November 2, there will be a gathering at the World Financial Center North Cove, and the 9/11 community and general public are encouraged to attend. It is there, at approximately 8:00 a.m., where USS New York will bring her engines to all stop to pause, dip her national ensign, and give the highest military honor, a 21-gun salute, to Ground Zero. It will be quite a viewing party; the Navy NYC public affairs office is working with Battery Park City to make this a tremendous event for all.

I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

USS New York (LPD 21) gets underway for the last time from its birthplace at the Northrop Grumman shipyard in Avondale, Louisiana today. It is leaving for its new home port in Norfolk, Virginia, and the people of Avondale and the greater New Orleans area are giving the ship a proper, if sentimental, send-off. For them, USS New York has special meaning beyond the 7.5 tons of steel recovered from the World Trade Center that is now molded into the bow stem of the ship. For it was after the wreckage of Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent, inevitable delay to the ship building schedule when the shipyard workers who began work on LPD 21 vowed to return to the post-Katrina greater New Orleans area and finish what they had started. It took them five years in total to complete the construction, and finish it they did -- as war ships go, this one looks nothing short of spectacularly stealthy. A modern marvel. Just plain awe-inspiring.

Today the residents of Avondale and the greater New Orleans area are lining the levees as a salute to see their ship off. I think it both fitting and right that they honor the ship in this way. Through USS New York the people of New Orleans will forever be connected, at first through tragedy and later through triumph, with New Yorkers. And on November 2nd, the day USS New York will sail up New York Harbor for the very first time, New Yorkers will give its ship and the Louisianans who made her a reciprocating return salute, welcoming a 7.5 ton piece of the World Trade Center home.

Fair winds and following seas, Louisiana! USS New York is heading home.