Curiosity: forget “Cherchez la femme” (Look for the woman.) “Cherchez l’histoire.” (Look for the story.)
You may remember this photo from two years ago: ship’s sponsor Bonnie Amos smashing the champagne bottle across the bow of the (prospective) USS Portland LPD27 in Pascagoula, MI. That happened about two years after Gary saw the small notice in the paper about the Secretary of the Navy naming a new ship after Portland, OR–only.
The Navy accepted the ship after sea trials in September. The next phase was crew assignment and training. In late December, she sailed from Pascagoula to Key West and Guantanamo Bay before transiting the Panama Canal in early January to reach her home port, San Diego, CA.
She arrived at Astoria, OR on April 12. I was privileged to accompany Gary and the other members of the Commissioning Committee on the transit up the Columbia River to Portland on April 14. Because Gary’s also Chairman of the State Board of Maritime Pilots, he was allowed on the bridge, or pilot house, for the trip.
Capt. Hill and several of his crew came to Portland during the last couple of years and had an opportunity to become acquainted with the city. They used their knowledge to give appropriate names to various parts of the ship. The medical area, which comprises two operating rooms, two dental operating rooms and a 24-bed hospital is named “Pill Hill,” after the landmark OHSU and Veterans Hospital installations overlooking the Willamette River. The ship’s store is called “Saturday Market.” One of the ‘scuttlebutts’ (where people drink water) is named “Skidmore Fountain” and one of the corridors is called Burnside St.
The well deck is where trucks, construction equipment, jeeps, tanks, etc. can be driven aboard when the ship is beached. (I think these generate electricity.)
Crew and equipment can be ferried aboard in an LCAC (Landing Craft Air-Cushioned) when the lower aft portion of the well deck is flooded.
Everything’s pumped dry in this shot, of course, and the LCAC’s all tied down. The area’s been named “Willamette Valley.
Gary came off the bridge to join me for lunch. First, though, he had to find a ‘head’ and was directed down a corridor past Personnel Administration, where he stopped in surprise:
The Commissioning Committee Gary recruited spent the past four years successfully raising money and organizing activities for the crew during their week in Portland from April 14-21. Committee members went all-out and feedback from representatives of several organizations who’ve participated in many of these programs declared it was one of the best.
Distinguished speakers at the Commissioning Ceremony on Saturday, April 21, included Oregon Governor Kate Brown, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and the Asst. Secretary of the Navy James F. Guerts. Approximately 7,000 people attended the free event–for which they did have to request tickets in advance.
When ship’s sponsor Bonnie Amos delivered her directive, “Man this ship and bring her to life,” everything went according to plan.
The four year saga is complete. USS Portland LPD27 is now a fully-commissioned member of the US Navy. Gary completed his mission with great success.
What’s next? Well, there’s still the Oregon State Board of Maritime Pilots, spiffing up our trusty Annikin and selling her, organizing the details of our fall trip to Japan and China, other trips to visit family. Life goes on.