Navy to Christen USNS Sacagawea

Thursday, June 22, 2006
The Navy will christen USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE 2), the newest ship in the Lewis and Clark class of underway replenishment ships, June 24 during a launching at National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, San Diego. The name Sacagawea will honor the Lemhi Shoshone woman who acted as guide and interpreter for the Lewis and Clark expedition into the Northwest region of the United States. This well-documented expedition over two years and 6,000 miles opened routes to vast new territories throughout the American West, which allowed passage for American settlers and traders. Legendary for her perseverance and resourcefulness, Sacagawea (1788-1812) provided invaluable assistance to the explorers through her knowledge of topography and edible roots and plants previously unknown to European-Americans.

Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, will deliver the ceremony’s principal address. Lucy Honena Diaz and Rachael Lynne Ariwite, familial descendants of Sacagawea, will serve as co-sponsors of the ship. The launching ceremony will be highlighted in the time-honored Navy tradition when each sponsor breaks a bottle of champagne across the bow to formally christen the ship “Sacagawea.” Amy Mossett, a Mandan-Hidatsa member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota, will serve as honorary matron of honor. Sacagawea is the second ship in the Navy’s new 11-ship T-AKE Class. T-AKE is a combat logistics force vessel intended to replace the current capability of the T-AE 26 Kilauea-class ammunition ships, T-AFS 1 Mars-class combat stores ships, and when operating with T-AO 187 Henry J. Kaiser-Class oiler ships, the AOE 1 Sacramento-class fast combat support ships. Sacagawea is 689 feet in length, has an overall beam of 105 feet, a navigational draft of 30 feet, and displaces approximately 42,000 tons. Powered by a single-shaft diesel-electric propulsion system, the ship can reach a speed of 20 knots.

Designed to operate independently for extended periods at sea while providing replenishment services to U.S., NATO and allied ships, Sacagawea will directly contribute to the ability of the Navy to maintain a worldwide forward presence. Ships such as Sacagawea provide logistic lift from sources of supply either in port or at sea from specially equipped merchant ships. She will transfer cargo (ammunition, food, limited quantities of fuel, repair parts, ship store items, and expendable supplies and material) to ships and other naval warfare forces at sea. As part of the Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force, the ship will be designated USNS. The term stands for United States Naval Ship. Unlike their United States Ship (USS) counterparts, USNS vessels are manned primarily by civilian crews working for the U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command, Washington, D.C.

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