USS New Orleans Commissioned In New Orleans

Saturday, March 10th 2007, 10:07 pm
By: News On 6

NEW ORLEANS (AP) With the boom of cannons, the Navy commissioned the USS New Orleans before thousands of onlookers Saturday, marking the first time since at least World War II a Navy ship has been built and commissioned in its namesake city.

"May God bless and guide this warship and all who sail on her," the secretary of the Navy, Donald C. Winter, said before hundreds of sailors in crisp, white uniforms ran onto the ship to set the traditional first watch and to salute those in the celebratory crowd below.

The $1.3 billion USS New Orleans is a transport ship that can embark a landing force of up to 800 Marines. It is the fourth ship to bear the New Orleans name. The last one was an amphibious assault vessel that served during the Vietnam War and in Operation Desert Storm. It was decommissioned in 1997 and is slated to be sunk for gunnery practice.

It took about five years to build this ship, including a months-long interruption in construction due to Hurricane Katrina. The work was completed Monday.

"We are proud of this city and proud of this ship," Mayor Ray Nagin said. "We both survived Katrina."

Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Greene, a 36-year-old San Diego native, decommissioned the last USS New Orleans and helped prepare this one for its unveiling near the French Quarter.

"There's only four ships with this name, and I served on two. That's pretty unique," Greene said.

The ship, built at Northrop Grumman Ship Systems in the New Orleans suburb of Avondale, is about a dozen stories high and takes up the length of about two French Quarter blocks. It has state-of-the-art communications systems, a post office, two gyms, a convenience store and pharmacy, a hospital and dental office and sleeping quarters with lockers for 800 Marines, and a crew of 360.
It will be based in San Diego.