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Sun Gazette: USS Arlington Commissioned as Symbol of Nation's Might, Resolve Print


Created:  Monday, April 8, 2013



Gov. McDonnell chats with Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th), USS Arlington Commissioning Committee vice chairman Jim Pebley and Arlington Treasurer Frank O'Leary at the April 6 commissioning ceremony. The ship is behind them. (Photo by Scott McCaffrey)


A crowd of 6,000 gathered April 6 at Naval Station Norfolk for the commissioning of the USS Arlington in a colorful ceremony whose roots date to the year before the Declaration of Independence was signed.

“We are a warship, and we are prepared to do our nation’s bidding,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Darren Nelson, commander of the landing platform dock, as the ship was placed into commission.

The mission of the ship, its 28 officers and 332 enlisted personnel will be to support the movement of up to 800 Marines and their equipment to world hot-spots.

The name “Arlington” was selected to honor the 184 victims of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, and to salute the first-responders whose actions prevented further loss of life and saved the building. In the crowd were about 50 people who lost family members in the attack.

“I want you to know what an outstanding ship you’re getting,” Nelson told the assembled crowd on a pier usually reserved for aircraft carriers. “I couldn’t have picked a finer crew. We will be the bearer of freedom wherever we go in the world.”

As gulls soared overhead to watch the proceedings, the USS Arlington officially was placed in commission at 1:24 p.m., when the colors and commissioning pennant were hoisted aloft. Minutes later, sponsor Joyce Rumsfeld directed the officers and crew to man the ship.

Gen. James Amos, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, called the Arlington “a welcome addition to the fleet.”

“It’s an especially glorious day,” said Amos. “This ship and those of her class represent our resolve . . . America’s commitment to security around the world.”

“In today’s very dangerous world, you have to be present to make a difference,” Amos said.

U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8th) used the ceremony to quote Teddy Roosevelt: “A good Navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guaranty of peace.”

“This ship will be home to sailors and Marines prepared to defend the nation,” said Moran, one of four members of the Virginia U.S. House of Representatives delegation to attend the ceremony.

Gov. McDonnell struck a similar chord in his remarks.

“The U.S. military is the greatest force for good we have in the world today,” he said. “America is strong. She is strong because of the great work of the men and women of the American military. This is going to be a powerful ship for the delivery of American might around the world.”

The USS Arlington is the third Navy ship to bear the county’s name, succeeding a World War II-era transport and a Vietnam-era communications ship.

During the ceremony, one of the crew of the second USS Arlington – Ken Cox – presented that ship’s spyglass to representatives of the new Arlington.

“This is an honor I did not expect,” said Cox, who served in the Navy from 1956 to 1976 and was aboard the earlier USS Arlington from its commissioning in 1960 until 1967.

The ceremony drew a large contingent from Arlington, including all five County Board members, members of the legislative delegation, constitutional officers and the leaders of the police department, fire department and sheriff’s office.

County Board Chairman Walter Tejada called the day “memorable in every sense of the word.”

U.S. Navy commissioning ceremonies date to the formation of the Continental Navy in 1775. “This is historic,” Tejada said. “It was a privilege.”

The 684-foot-long, 24,900-ton USS Arlington, constructed in Mississippi by Huntington-Ingalls Industries Shipbuilding, is expected to spend the next 18 months in Norfolk and its environs, then head out to sea.

Its lifespan is anticipated to be 40 years, and the USS Arlington “will be forever linked to the county for which she is named,” said Adm. William Gortney, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command.