ANCHORAGE, Alaska (NNS) -- The future San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23) moored pierside, May 1, at the Port of Anchorage in her namesake city during a welcome ceremony hosted by officials from the Municipality of Anchorage.
The welcome ceremony kicks off a four-day celebration that will lead into the ship's commissioning, May 4, at the Port of Anchorage.
Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, who spent the night on the ship after being flown on in an MV-22 Osprey, praised the crew on their hospitality and professionalism.
"I had a chance to meet these hardworking Sailors and Marines, and I am without a doubt impressed by their drive and devotion to their duty," he said. "We are humbled to have this opportunity to host the crew in our fine city and show them who they represent. We cannot thank them enough for their service."
During the welcome ceremony, the ship received a blessing from local Native Alaskans representing the various Deni'Ina and Athabascan villages that surround the municipality of Anchorage.
"We honor those who accept the responsibility for our care," said Dena'Ina Elder Alberta Stephen. "To us, this is simply returning the favor, and we pray for the safe keeping of those who keep us safe."
For a majority of the Sailors and Marines aboard, this is their first visit to Alaska's largest city and the furthest north they have traveled.
"It might take a few extra layers of clothes, but I'm definitely excited to be here and meet the people," said Seaman Michael Gakungu, who hails from Embu, Kenya. "Visiting new places, and seeing new people is why I joined the Navy. Anchorage, and Alaska in general, has intrigued me because it's so far from where I come from and we saw some beautiful mountains during the transit up."
Following the welcome ceremony, crewmember families and distinguished visitors, which included ship sponsor Annette Conway, were given a special tour of the ship.
The voyage to Alaska was filled with anticipation for the upcoming festivities, but the nine-day transit also offered an opportunity to prepare for the ship's post-commissioning events that will include final contract trials in July.
The ship is also host to more than 100 Sailors from various ships and pre-commissioning units in San Diego, giving them a chance to work on qualifications and training that can only be completed while underway.
"The partnership among the commands is what makes our Navy great," said Cmdr. Joel Stewart, commanding officer of Anchorage. "By taking care of each other, training each other and offering these avenues for learning, we make a better fleet. Just as the pre-commissioning units before us took care of Anchorage Sailors, now it's our turn."
Anchorage is the seventh San Antonio class amphibious transport dock. She was built at the Huntington Ingalls Industries Shipbuilding site in Avondale, La., and delivered to the U.S. Navy, Sept. 17. She is the second ship to be named for Alaska's most populous city.
For more information about USS Anchorage, visit our Web site at: http://www.public.navy.mil/surfor/lpd23/ Or visit us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/anchoragelpd23
For more news from USS ANCHORAGE (LPD 23), visit www.navy.mil/local/LPD23/ .