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USS Manchester arrives in Portsmouth ahead of commissioning ceremony Saturday

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 21. 2018 2:05PM
The USS Manchester will arrive in Portsmouth today. (COURTESY)

Commander Emily Bassett is the commanding officer of the USS Manchester.

MANCHESTER — State, local and federal officials are expected to gather today at the New Hampshire State Pier in Portsmouth to welcome the future USS Manchester to port.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, official sponsor of the Littoral Combat Ship named for the Queen City, will join the crew of the future Naval vessel when it arrives at the pier at 11:15 a.m. The future USS Manchester will be commissioned next Saturday, May 26, at 10 a.m. in Portsmouth.

Porter Davis, chairman of the USS Manchester Commissioning Committee, stopped by Manchester City Hall last week to update officials on the ship’s arrival and events planned ahead of Saturday’s ceremony.

“We are looking very much forward to having your ship come in,” Davis told city aldermen.

Davis said the vessel will steam into Portsmouth this morning after departing Virginia last week.

“Right now, it is a precommissioned unit — really just a ship upon the sea,” said Davis. “The actual ship commissioning is when the ship joins the fleet and becomes the USS Manchester, which makes it an official warship.”

“This ceremony has been many years in the making and I’m thrilled that this historic event will take place in our state,” said Shaheen in a recent statement. “The future USS Manchester pays great tribute to the Queen City’s storied history and New Hampshire’s long history of supporting our national defense.”

“The future USS Manchester is a modern marvel and an example of the increased capability that comes from a true partnership with the American industry,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “The ship honors the city of Manchester and the patriotic citizens of New Hampshire for their support to our military, and I cannot wait to see the amazing things the crew will accomplish.”

Admiral Bill Moran, the vice chief of Naval operations will deliver the commissioning ceremony’s principal address. The ceremony will feature a Navy tradition when Shaheen, the ship’s sponsor, gives the first order to “man our ship and bring her to life!”

As the ship’s official sponsor, Shaheen is a permanent, honorary member of the crew and her initials are welded into the ship’s hull.

“A lot of people don’t realize when the ship joins the fleet, Sen. Shaheen will be a part of it for the duration of the ship’s career — the next 20 to 30 years,” said Davis. “Part of that is the ship sending delegates yearly to visit your community.”

Commander Emily Bassett, a native of Seattle, is the commanding officer of the ship and leads the core crew of 71 officers and enlisted personnel.

The 3,200-ton Manchester was built by Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Ala. The ship is 421 feet in length, has a beam of 104 feet, and a navigational draft of 14 feet.

The ship is powered by two gas turbine engines, two main propulsion diesel engines, and four waterjets to speeds up to 40-plus knots.

The USS Manchester is part of the Independence class of Littoral Combat Ships. Littoral Combat Ships are designed to face asymmetric threats in shallow areas off coastlines and primarily perform surface warfare, antisubmarine warfare and mine countermeasures.

This is the second ship in the U.S. Navy to be named after the Queen City. The first USS Manchester, a light cruiser that saw action during the Korean War, was commissioned in 1946 and operated primarily in the Pacific. It served three combat tours and earned nine battle stars before it was decommissioned in 1956. On her last tour, the USS Manchester participated in Operation “Glory” to return to Hawaii 50 unidentified American dead from the Korean War.

The new ship displaces 210 tons. The original USS Manchester displaced nearly 12,000 tons and required a crew of 1,255.

Davis said the ship and its new crew will be in New Hampshire all this week, with several events planned.

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig will attend a ‘Meet and Greet’ with crew members at City Hall on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. in the aldermanic chambers. On Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. Craig will attend a ‘Women in Leadership Luncheon’ with Commander Bassett at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth.

The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce will host a USS Manchester luncheon on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. at 54 Hanover St., followed by the USS Manchester Committee reception at the Millyard Museum in Manchester at 5 p.m.

Davis said the crew will be presented with a gift from the city, a “dashboard” made of wood from trees cleared from a hill in Manchester by members of the New Hampshire Forestry Division.

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