PANAMA CITY, Fla. (NNS) -- More than 300 Sailors and a platoon of Marines manned the rails of USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), the newest San Antonio class ship, bringing her to life during the commissioning ceremony held at Port Panama City, Fla., Dec. 15.
The ship is named in honor of the Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado. In 1906, Congress established Mesa Verde as the first cultural park in the National Parks System. This is the first U.S. Navy ship to be named Mesa Verde.
Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a former U.S. Senator from Colorado, addressed ship's company, family members, and several thousand guests reflecting on the tradition of Native Americans building a strong bond with the military.
"The relationship between our native people and the U.S. Military indeed has become stronger and stronger with each passing decade", said Campbell . "We have the highest per capita rate of enlisted of any ethnic minority."
Campbell's wife, Linda Price Campbell, who is the ship's sponsor, gave the order to "man our ship and bring her to life."
Cmdr. Shawn W. Lobree of Miami, Fla., became the first commanding officer of the ship and will lead a crew of approximately 360 officers and enlisted personnel and three Marines.
"With this ship the United States will take the fight to the enemy forward from the sea with capabilities never seen before," said Lobree. "The crew before you today-they are aggressive, dedicated, salty, engaged, educated, physically and mentally fit, and most of all, ready to go to sea."
The ship is scheduled to get underway Dec. 17, and will ultimately join the fleet in its home port of Norfolk, Va.
Mesa Verde is the third amphibious transport dock ship in the San Antonio class. As a critical element in future expeditionary strike groups, the ship will support the Marine Corps mobility triad, which consists of the landing craft air cushion vehicle, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft (MV-22).
The ship will support amphibious, special operations, and expeditionary warfare missions in keeping with the new maritime strategy that postures the sea services to apply maritime power to protect U.S. vital interests in an increasingly interconnected and uncertain world.
Built by Northrop Grumman Ships Systems, Ingalls Operations in Pascagoula, Miss., Mesa Verde is 684-feet long, has an overall beam of 105 feet, a navigational draft of 23 feet, displaces approximately 24,900 tons and is capable of embarking a landing force of up to 800 Marines. Four turbo-charged diesel engines power the ship to sustained speeds of 22 knots.
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