Navy warship makes Juneau port call

100 sailors sign up to help build Twin Lakes Project Playground

Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2007

That battleship-gray warship will be docked downtown until Saturday, but there's no mistaking it for a battleship. Instead of big guns, the superstructure sports lots of big gray globes.

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Even armchair admirals know that vessels like the USS Bunker Hill - packed with computers, radar and even more exotic electronics - have made the old dreadnought-style monsters obsolete.

As far as weapons go, you're not supposed to see them unless you're the target. Maybe not even then.

Know and go

What: Tours of the USS Bunker Hill guided missile cruiser.

When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Parking: Naval officials recommend parking in the lot outside the U.S. Coast Guard station near downtown Juneau.

To learn more, visit www.bunker-hill.navy.mil.

The guided missile cruiser is paying a port call to give its crew a respite following a two-week military exercise in the Gulf of Alaska. It's open to Juneau residents who want a tour.

Its crew is also constructing rather than cruising. Since the Bunker Hill docked Monday, nearly a third of its roughly 350 sailors have been involved in a local volunteer project.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Russ Hardy, who is based in Juneau, said 100 sailors signed up to help build Project Playground, the community project at Twin Lakes.

"They are very excited about contributing back," he said.

Most sailors on the San Diego-based ship hail from the Lower 48, making this voyage to Alaska through the Inside Passage a first for several of them, he said.

Sailors have also been touring the town - going on glacier hikes, riding zip lines, fishing and checking out the Alaskan Brewery.

It's a welcome break from a two-week exercise called Northern Edge 2007, which included the U.S. Navy, the Coast Guard and their Canadian allies. The maneuvers simulated countering seaborne terrorist threats.

The Bunker Hill served as the command and control ship for four other vessels in the exercise.

"We were at the tip of the sword going after the bad guys, essentially," Operations Officer Jack Fay said.

The Bunker Hill was previously in Middle Eastern waters for the Iraq war.

It was the first ship to launch Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles during the start of the air war known as Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fay said.

The ship has won five consecutive "battle efficiency" awards, recognizing battle readiness in a variety of areas, Fay said.

He said that was a notable achievement, particularly since the ship has seen a recent crew turnover of more than 100 percent. The Bunker Hill was also awarded the Spokane trophy for being the most "combat ready" in 2006.

Tonight an invitation-only reception is planned with local Juneau officials, U.S. Coast Guard officials and legislators, among others.

The ship is open for public tours Friday and Saturday.

• Brittany Retherford can be reached at brittany.retherford@juneauempire.com.



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