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The right place

Posted: December 4, 2011 - 1:08am

This editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

The USS Anchorage should be commissioned in Anchorage if the price is right.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski has encouraged Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to have the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship commissioned in Anchorage, for which it was named.

The idea is appealing to Alaskans, particularly those living in Anchorage. Here’s a ship with an Alaska connection.

Alaska has a long relationship with the armed forces. But the Navy hasn’t had a year-round presence in the state since the naval facilities in Adak closed, although we are happy to welcome those members of the Navy who frequent the Southeast Alaska Acoustic Measurement Facility here in Behm Canal .

Alaskans are ardent supporters of the armed forces. Many of those who served in Alaska stayed and made it their home. Alaska is home to more veterans per capita than any other state.

The 24,900-ton USS Anchorage has a crew of 360. It is 684 feet long, has a 105-foot beam and a 23-foot navigational draft. It cruises at more than 22 knots, powered by four turbo-charged diesels. It can accommodate a landing force of 700.

The Anchorage is the seventh of 12 ships in the San Antonio class that the Navy started launching in 2000. They eventually will replace about 40 other Navy vessels. The ships are designed to improve efficiency.

The Anchorage is the second Navy ship to bear the name of Alaska’s largest city. The first USS Anchorage was commissioned in 1969. It won numerous commendations in Vietnam, South West Asia, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, to become the most decorated dock landing ship on the West Coast.

The second USS Anchorage was christened in May at Huntington Ingalls Industries. It was built by Ingalls Shipbuilding.

The commissioning ceremony will place the USS Anchorage on active duty. Currently, it is undergoing sea trials, which are expected to be completed for a 2012 commissioning ceremony.

The cost of building each ship is around $1 billion. Despite the current U.S. financial status, the money is well spent to maintain the Navy fleet and improve upon its capabilities. But, given the finances, the Navy and its supporters — all of us — should consider the price of ceremonies occurring with each ship’s commissioning. This is a time when a small, less expensive, but still meaningful ceremony will do.

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