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Thousands show for USS Detroit commissioning

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Detroit— More than 6,500 people showed up Saturday morning for the commissioning of the U.S. Navy's newest warship, the USS Detroit along the GM Riverwalk on the Detroit River.

For a late October day, the weather cooperated: it was cool, but sunny with blue skies and the Detroit River provided a glistening backdrop. There was a military band that played "Anchors Away" and other favorites. There were speeches by several officials, including from Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, and U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow.

The 3,200-ton Detroit is officially classified as a LCS, a littoral combat ship. While festooned with bright-colored flags and red-white-and blue draping Saturday it would never be confused with a Boblo boat.

The 387-foot-long fleet vessel, capable of doing over 40 knots, can carry a crew of 73, and is equipped with radar, a helicopter pad and weaponry including a 110 57mm gun, machine guns and Surface-to-Air missiles. A door in its stern can be used to launch boats and small amphibious vehicles.

The Detroit has a beam of 57 feet, and a navigational draft of 13.5 feet, giving it accessibility denied to larger military ships. The ship uses two gas turbine and two diesel engines to power four steerable waterjets. Its homeport will be the Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Fla.

"This is a special day of pride," said Snyder. "... It represents the comeback of the city of Detroit. ... Thanks for keeping us safe."

Duggan was also complimentary to the ship and its crew: "You've been the talk of Detroit all week."

The ship's sponsor, Barbara Levin, wife of retired U.S, Senator Carl Levin, uttered the time-honored, traditional words: "Man our ship and bring it to life" setting off a cacophony of mechanical whoops, whirring, bells, and horns as radar discs and other devices spun into action on the Detroit.

Those in attendance, including military veterans and families of current servicemen and women, burst into applause Ensign Joey Seymour, pressed into duty as a media liaison, estimated the crowd at more than 6,500 based on occupied seats and ticket distribution for the event.

Among them was Oakland County Commissioner John Scott, R-Waterford, and his wife, Jane.

"I was going to wear a flight jacket but when I felt how cold it was today I pulled on the pea coat instead," said Scott, who served in the U.S. Navy between 1969 to 1976 in the Philippines and in Vietnam.

Jason McLelland of Macomb Township brought sons Gavin,7, and Grant, 4, to the commissioning event. Both boys wore snappy U.S. Navy baseball caps and seemed to be enjoying the ceremony.

"We have a lot of relatives who served in the military and I felt this was important for them to see," said McLelland. "I took them to the decommissioning of a ship in Bay City. Now they get to see one commissioned."

After the ceremonies several hundred people stool in line for over an hour for an opportunity to walk on board the Detroit. About 10,000 people have toured the ship this past week, a spokesman said.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

(248) 338-0319