The Navy's newest amphibious transport dock ship, Pre-commissioning Unit Somerset, (LPD 25) departed Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) Shipbuilding site in Avondale, La., Feb. 3, beginning its maiden voyage to its commissioning site in Philadelphia, March 1.
"The commissioning ceremony marks an important milestone in a ship's life and completes the cycle from christening and launching to full status as a ship of the United States Navy," said Commanding Officer, Capt. Thomas L. Dearborn. "On March 1, 2014 when you hear the words " ... bring my ship to life," Somerset will come alive and her crew stand ready to take our place in America's historic heritage of the sea."
Before Somerset could set sail, it had to completed several certifications, including light-off assessment (LOA), damage control material assessment, crew certification phase two, and anti-terrorism force protection. According to Somerset's Training Department, the certifications require a passing rate in order for the ship to operate independently.
"The certifications grades spoke volumes for the crews' training and preparations yielding high scores in all areas," said Somerset's Training Leading Chief Petty Officer, Chief Damage Controlman (SW/AW) Brian McGowan. "Afloat Training Group Pacific gave high reviews, even going as far as saying 'Somerset is one of the best ships on the west coast.' I'm proud to serve on board and impressed with the caliber of Sailors stationed here."
As Somerset prepared to depart HII Shipyard on the eight hour sea and anchor detail, Sailors stood on the weather and flight decks viewing the skyline of New Orleans for the last time, even cheering as the ship passed under the Huey P. Long Bridge.
"I've been a part of the Somerset crew for nearly two years now, with most of that time here in New Orleans," said Personnel Specialist 1st Class Katherine Limones. "Although it's a little bittersweet leaving, I'm so excited we are so close to commissioning. It's an honor to be on one of the Sept. 11 tribute ships and to be a part of a ship that represents so much heroism."
Somerset is the ninth San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock and is named in honor of the courageous passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 which crashed near Shanksville in Somerset County, Pa during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Somerset is the third of the three named in honor of those victims and first responders of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. USS Somerset represents the heroic actions of the 40 crew and passengers of United Flight 93 honoring their collective sacrifice and the tremendous courage displayed in the face of overwhelming adversity. Had it not been for their brave actions, the terrorists would have reached their intended target and countless more lives would have been lost.
Upon formal commissioning USS Somerset (LPD 25) will proceed to its homeport of San Diego, Calif.