BURNS HARBOR — The U.S. Navy commissioned its newest littoral combat ship, the USS Indianapolis (LCS 17), during a ceremony on Saturday at Burns Harbor.
Burns Harbor is known for producing steel and has a long, rich history of supporting U.S. defense capabilities, according to a statement from the Navy.
“To the citizens of the great state of Indiana who have joined us here today, thank you so much for enduring the weather to show your support for the men and women of America’s military and this fantastic new addition to the fleet,” said Lisa Hershman, deputy chief management officer for the Department of Defense and the ceremony’s principle speaker.
“It is always a thrill to see a Navy ship commissioned, but it is truly a historic moment to do so on the shores of Lake Michigan.”
The ceremony honored veterans of USS Indianapolis (CA 35), a cruiser which was sunk in the final days of World War II after completing a secret mission to deliver components for an atomic bomb. Her crew spent several days in the water awaiting rescue.
As part of the ceremony, Dick Thelen, veteran seaman 2nd class and a survivor of that mission, handed the long glass (telescope) to Lt. Julian Turner, navigator of the first watch.
“Now, a combat-ready ship is necessary but not sufficient for our Navy to fight and win decisively in combat,” said Adm. Christopher Grady, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command.
“To fight and win you, the Hoosier Sailors of Indianapolis, must join as one and become a battle-minded crew. You must waste no time in preparing yourself to function as a team-of-teams, masterfully exercising your ship to the very extent of its limits. Only through the combination of this combat-ready ship and you, its battle-minded crew, both blue and gold, can Indianapolis carry on the proud legacy of your predecessors.”
The ship’s motto, “Legacy of War,” reflects that ships named Indianapolis have served in World War I, World War II, and the Cold War. LCS 17 is the fourth ship to bear the name.
“I feel honored to represent the ship’s namesake and the history that goes with that. Our crew has put in a tremendous amount of work preparing the USS Indianapolis,” said Lt. j.g. Eric Wilkerson.
“There is a lot of Navy pride here today. The support from earlier crews being here is a strong reminder of the commitment needed to defend our nation and maritime freedoms.”
Jill Donnelly, the ship’s sponsor, gave the first order, “Man our ship and bring her to life!”
More than 8,000 people attended the commissioning ceremony including Indiana residents, and friends and family of the crew.
“It was an all-hands effort. We work together to get the ship up and ready to go. There is a lot of teamwork and everyone really does pull their weight to accomplish the mission,” said Operations Specialist 1st Class Devin Morris. “It’s a brand new ship so everyone has to go through all the certifications to make sure we are mission ready.”
Littoral combat ships are outfitted with mission packages that deploy manned and unmanned vehicles and sensors in support of mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare, or surface warfare missions, according to the Navy in a statement. The warship’s modular mission packages can be quickly and cost effectively updated with new weapons and weapon systems without taking the ship out of service for modifications and modernizations.
LCS class ships allow the Navy to strengthen its partnership with other countries’ navies and coast guards. LCS perform maritime security operations, theater security cooperation engagements, and freedom of navigation patrols – keeping critical maritime commerce routes open. Littoral combat ships are able to patrol the littorals and access ports where other ships may be unable.
Indianapolis will be homeported in Naval Station Mayport, Florida.
—From staff reports