Sioux City area residents help Navy commission USS Sioux City
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The nation’s newest warship entered active service Saturday on a wave of northwest Iowa pride.
An estimated 5,000 people gathered to mark the commissioning of the USS Sioux City at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.
The crowd included many Sioux City area residents who made the 1,200-mile journey to celebrate the first Navy ship to bear the name of Iowa’s fourth-largest city.
A ship commissioning represents centuries of tradition. Modern commissioning ceremonies feature the kind of pageantry the military only pulls out for special events — gun salutes, bands and all manner of other flourishes.
Various civic and military dignitaries offered remarks, with Sen. Joni Ernst delivering the main address. The Iowa Republican described the ship as more than the sum of the materials and work that built it.
“This ship is the tangible result of talented people coming together with a shared vision,” Ernst said. “It is what can happen when teams of individuals pool their skills together to accomplish a mission. It is a wonderful example of how our diverse workforce from across this great nation can contribute to our national defense.”
Ernst, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a veteran herself, praised the men and women who will serve aboard the ship.
“It speaks volumes that this ship will carry the name of USS Sioux City as it performs critical missions around the globe,” she said.
The USS Sioux City is the 11th in a new line of littoral combat ships, which are designed to operate close to shore. Its home port will be Mayport, Florida.
Speakers at Saturday’s commissioning tied the ship’s “Forging a New Frontier” motto to Sioux City’s pioneer spirit.
The past week’s festivities have included various receptions and parties with Iowa-themed food, from Jolly Time popcorn to Blue Bunny ice cream.
The USS Sioux City was christened almost three years ago by its sponsor, Mary Winnefeld, wife of Adm. James “Sandy” Winnefeld, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Officers and crew of the USS Sioux City, man our ship and bring her to life,” Mary Winnefeld belted out Saturday, delivering the traditional first order for a new ship.
At her call, the crew streamed toward the ship and up the gangplanks, lining the rails as the band played below. Public tours of the ship were available after the ceremony.
Lifelong Sioux City resident Charles Kirby, 90, reflected on the last time he was on board a Navy vessel as he waited in line for a tour with his son Jeff and other family members.
Kirby served in the Navy from 1946 to 1948. Much of that time was spent on the heavy cruiser USS Chicago as part of the U.S. presence in the Pacific following World War II.
“It’s been 70 years since I’ve been on a ship,” Kirby said. “It’s just a great thrill to be able to get on a ship again.”
As they toured the ship, Kirby marveled at the difference between modern war fighting and his time in uniform. The USS Sioux City is a high-tech vessel that can operate with a crew of fewer than 100. That’s a fraction of the number he sailed with on the USS Chicago.
He also admired the ship’s speed, which tops out at more than 40 knots.
“The way it can maneuver,” Kirby said. “It’s amazing.”