USS Sioux City crew, committee prepare for commissioning in Annapolis
For the first time the people of Sioux City, Iowa, have a combat ship named in their honor.
But the 3,400-ton
“It really connects all the different elements of Annapolis in my mind — the water, the Navy, Annapolis, hospitality, who we are,” said Retired Rear Admiral Frank Thorp IV, an Eastport resident and the chair of USS Sioux City Commissioning Committee.
The Annapolis community will have a chance to tour the ship during the week-long commissioning celebration, the 1981 Academy graduate said. The commissioning will be open to the public and held in spring or early summer, Thorp said. He co-chaired the commissioning committee for the
“Why don’t we do this in Annapolis?” he said then.
Members of the Blue Crew — the crew that will board the ship the day of commissioning — were in Annapolis this week to prepare for the event. A reception for the commissioning was held at the Naval Academy’s Alumni House Wednesday. The committee held the reception to start raising awareness about the commissioning in Annapolis, Thorp said.
More than 5,000 people are expected to be in town for the event, including visitors from the ship’s namesake city.
“One of the lasting impacts for Annapolis is getting the community more involved and comfortable with the Academy,” committee volunteer and retired Capt. Jamie Graybeal.
The 389-foot long
While this is the first time Sioux City will have a ship named in its honor, there have been four ships named for Maryland’s capital. The most recent
During the ceremony the crew’s commanding officer will read his orders and assume control of the ship, and the crew will board the ship and take their positions.
The ship’s keel was laid in February of 2014 and it was Christened in January of 2016 by ship sponsor Mary Winnefeld, wife of the former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral James "Sandy" Winnefeld. The commissioning officially places the ship in active service, said Graybeal.
The committee is organizing and raising all the funds for the commissioning — according to the committee, federal law prohibits funding by government institutions.
For one of the Blue Crew members, Lt. Cmdr. T.J. Orth, it’s a sort of homecoming. Orth graduated from the Academy in 2007, joined the fleet for four years and then returned to the Academy to teach navigation for another four years. He is now stationed in Jacksonville, Florida with the rest of the ship’s Blue Crew, assisting with two sister ships, the USS Detroit and the USS Milwaukee.
He’s been the crew’s unofficial tour guide while they’re in town, he said, showing them academy landmarks like the tomb of John Paul Jones and Memorial Hall.
The ship will be likely remain in service for 30 years.
“We really get to set a tone and standard that most sailors never do,” Orth said.
After commissioning, the ship will be assigned to the Navy’s 5th Fleet in the Persian Gulf, Cmdr. Randy Malone said. The Blue Crew, with 75 members, will be the first crew aboard the ship. The ship also has a Gold Crew — the two trade places when the ship is underway. The smaller crew size allows for more camaraderie among members, compared to a crew of 400 or so, Malone said.
And for the midshipmen, it’s one thing to see a large ship parked in the Chesapeake Bay, Orth said.
“It’s another to see a ship tied up right where you have your morning run.”