USS Fort Worth arrives in Galveston ... Western-style
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
GALVESTON, Texas — The crew of what officially will become the USS Fort Worth at its commissioning Saturday is, in the spirit of the city, donning Western-style hardhats as the newest of the Navy's next-generation coastal water combat ships arrived Monday in Galveston.
The crew has even nicknamed the mess decks "Cowtown," said T.D. Smyers, chairman of the nonprofit USS Fort Worth Commissioning and Support Committee.
"They're a very motivated bunch of sailors," said Smyers, a retired Navy captain and former commander of Fort Worth's Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base. "They're motivated to carry the name of Fort Worth. It's pretty cool to see them adopting the part."
The ship, launched in Wisconsin and built by Lockheed Martin and partners, arrived in Galveston after a lengthy trip that began in the Great Lakes and moved down the St. Lawrence River toward Nova Scotia and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Fort Worth will become the first Navy vessel to carry the name of the nation's 16th largest city, after a lengthy campaign by U.S. Rep. Kay Granger. The Navy has sent into service vessels named after Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Corpus Christi.
Small ship, big spirit
The Fort Worth will be Navy's third littoral combat ship, a speedy, light, maneuverable vessel designed to work in shallow waters, if necessary, and carrying easy-to-switch modules for missions such as mine detection, anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare against such threats as terrorists.
The post-9-11 idea was envisioned by Gordon England, the deputy defense secretary under President George W. Bush and former CEO of Lockheed Martin Fort Worth. After the commissioning, the Fort Worth will sail to its new home base, San Diego, Calif.
A raft of Fort Worth dignitaries are to attend this week's activities. They include England, who will keynote the commissioning; Granger; Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and City Council members; former Mayor Mike Moncrief; North Texas Congressman Michael Burges; former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams; and Congressman Reid Riddle of Wisconsin, whose Marinette Marine shipyard launched the ship in 2010. The vessel since then has been undergoing tests and being outfitted.
Four tour buses of youths and chaperones from the Arlington Heights and Joshua high schools Junior ROTC units, the Lone Star and Forrestal squadron of the Naval Sea Cadet Corps, and Arlington's Boy Scout Troop 380 are headed to the commissioning, Parker said. Veterans groups such as the Tin Can Sailors are also coming, she said.
Tickets are free to Saturday's 10 a.m. commissioning at Pier 21, and only a small number of the 3,200 remained Monday, said Mattie Parker, director of the commissioning committee.
"There is very limited availability of tickets left," Parker said. For more information, visit the website www.ussfortworth.org.
For people who can't make it to Galveston, a simulcast in downtown Fort Worth is scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday on the parking lot at Fourth Street, between Houston and Throckmorton streets. The sponsors -- Sundance Square, the commissioning committee and Downtown Fort Worth Inc. -- are rolling in a 9-by-16-foot TV screen.
The Navy is paying for the commissioning ceremony, but the commissioning committee has been raising money to throw a Friday night "Black Tie and Boots" gala in Galveston, which will host the crew and their families for free, and help fund recreational improvements to the ship and support for families in the coming years.
The ship is expected to be in the fleet for 30 or more years. Williams, who was committee chair before stepping aside, helped raise more than $300,000.
The two envision fundraising continuing throughout the life of the ship.
"We basically have ownership in this ship for several generations, " Williams said. "We want to be able to help the crew and, when they come to Fort Worth, honor them, because they're going to represent our community all over the world."
Monday, the committee and Texas Rangers are hosting 20 members of the crew at the Rangers' home game in Arlington. One of the ship's two commanding officers is to throw out the first pitch.
The committee will consult with the Navy to determine the ship's needs, Smyers and Williams said.
Smyers envisions such possibilities as books, games, tools that allow sailors to communicate with family members and exercise equipment. Williams said scholarships are also a possibility.
"We'll be working with the crew very, very closely to see what kinds of things make a difference in their welfare," Smyers said.
The committee would also be available to help families that struggle after a sailor is deployed, Smyers said. The committee is looking into sponsoring a family day this fall, he said.
The Navy has committed to buying at least 20 of the ships through 2015 at a cost of about $7 billion. Ten will be from Lockheed Martin, and 10 from a General Dynamics-led team. Lockheed produced the first littoral ship, and GD the second.