USS San Antonio Steps Mast

Monday, August 29, 2005
By Naval Sea Systems Command Public Affairs

As part of crew move aboard, the crew of the future USS San Antonio (LPD 17) officially “stepped” their Advanced Enclosed Mast/Sensor System (AEM/S) recently. Normally, a ship’s Mast Stepping occurs earlier in conjunction with ship christening, but delaying this event until now enabled all of future San Antonio’s crew to be present.

The ancient custom of “stepping the mast,” by placing coins under the step or bottom of a ship’s mast during construction, dates from antiquity. One belief from Greek Mythology is that should the ship be wrecked during passage, the coins would ensure payment of the crew’s wages for their return home. Since at least the construction of USS Constitution, this tradition has been passed on as a symbol of good luck for U.S. Navy ships.

In keeping with this tradition, prospective Commanding Officer Cmdr. Jon Padfield placed a box with seventeen cents in U.S coins near the ship’s Advanced Enclosed Mast/Sensor system. This coinage equals San Antonio’s hull number for LPD 17. The dates of each coin are significant, reflecting a key event that is representative of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) program office, the shipbuilder (Northrop Grumman Ship Systems), the ship’s sponsor, namesake, and crew.

“As we prepare to move our crew on board this twenty-first century expeditionary warship, we’re proud to carry on nautical tradition and heritage, and we do this by ‘stepping the mast,’” said Cmdr. Padfield. “As we move forward into the future, we also are proud of the traditions that make us Sailors.”

The coins Cmdr. Padfield placed in the box include two pennies dated 1990 and 2000 respectively, which signify the start of the LPD 17 Shipbuilding Program at NAVSEA, and the start of ship construction in Avondale, La. One nickel is really an old half-dime and was donated by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, the ship’s sponsor, on behalf of the citizens of Texas and the United States. The coin’s date of 1836 marks the first year of Texas Independence and remembers the Alamo at San Antonio.

A fourth coin is a nickel dated 1876 and was selected for the citizens of San Antonio, Texas, past, present and future by Mayor Edward D. Garza. 1876 was the start of the first permanent U.S. military post in San Antonio, which is today known as “Military City, USA.”

For the last nickel, Cmdr. Padfield stated, “The year 1962 marks the year when the U.S. Navy commissioned its first amphibious transport dock, USS Raleigh (LPD 1). Fourteen ships followed in the LPD 1 and LPD 4 classes and this nickel recognizes the outstanding service of those ships and the contributions of the thousands of Sailors and Marines who served and still serve aboard those fine ships.”

The LPD 17 Commissioning Committee chaired by Richard M. Kleberg III also donated commemorative coins and medals for the city of San Antonio. These included an 1829 Spanish Pillar Dollar, an 1869 Republic of Mexico 8 Reales piece representing the cultural heritage of the city of San Antonio, and a medal of St. Christopher, the Patron Saint of travelers, especially Sailors. Commemorative Medals included those honoring the city of San Antonio and its historic river, the Alamo on the 150th Anniversary of the battle, and a 1986 medal commemorating the Texas Sesquicentennial.

San Antonio will be commissioned later this year in Ingleside, TX

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