Grit and Tenacity
D. A. Sharpe
Grit and tenacity are the words adorning the Crest of the USS Fort Worth, the first United States Navy fighting ship to bear the name of our neighboring city, Fort Worth, Texas! Its journey to life, even before its naming, began some three years ago in Marinette, Wisconsin where the Marinette Marine Corporation in the Lockheed Martin consortium starting building this ship known as LCS 3. It stands for Littoral Combat Ship, the third ship in a series of a projected fifty-five $500,000,000 Littoral Combat Ships, designed for high tech efficient maneuverability in shallow inland waters around the continents of the world.
A slimmed-down crew of only 40 officers and sailors sail this ship. All other classes of Navy ships use crews of 200 and more. Two crews rotate assignments known as the Blue Crew and the Gold Crew. Each member of the crew undergoes vigorous training for particular high-tech functions for over two years before assuming duty on the ship. This past Saturday, September 22, 2012 marked the delivery into full service of the USS Fort Worth when we witnessed the ceremonies of the Commissioning into service at Pier 21 in Galveston, Texas.
It also marked the climax of a mighty community effort to cement the bonds of citizens in the Fort Worth region to the ship and to its crew! It is an honor with superlative virtue that often is not appreciated fully, until people see what such a relationship with the defense of our nation can mean. Each Naval ship has a Sponsor, and the Sponsor of USS Fort Worth is our Congressional Representative Kay Granger. This Fort Worth home town woman who has given community leadership for Fort Worth as teacher, as business owner, as City Council member, as Mayor of the City and as our Representative in Congress, led the campaign to have the ship named for Fort Worth. This included working closely with a Fort Worth icon, our own Gordon R. England, another native who has served the nation well in national responsibilities, including being Secretary of the Navy twice, Deputy Secretary of Defense and the first Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security. It also including getting 50,000 school children to make drawings of the LCS-3 ship mailed to the Navy in DC to show strong intention of community support that could be expected!
The campaign bore the leadership marks from then Mayor Michael J. Moncrief, followed by current Mayor Betsy Price. Fort Worth native Roger Williams is the honorary Chairman of The USS Fort Worth Committee. Retired Navy Captain T. D. Smyers, long-time commander of the Fort Worth Naval Air Station, is Committee Chairman.
The Wise County Messenger reported on the USS Fort Worth in depth with its article on the Christening of the ship, published December 16, 2010. The almost two years intervening were used in installing high tech equipment, testing it for proper operations and sailing the ship in various conditions for confirmed seaworthiness. In its state of readiness, the ship was prepared for the send-off celebrative weekend just experienced.
USS Fort Worth docked in Galveston September 17 and opened almost immediately with tours for the public to admire this superlative element in our national security. Friday evening kicked off the Black Tie & Boots Gala in the Galveston Island Convention Center. Presentations by various community groups were made for the two Commanders and Crew before a formally attired guest list of 3,200. Tuxedos and cocktail dresses were the motif of the evening, along with cowboy boots and hats worn with the formality. The occasion captured the opportunity to interface with Naval officers, the enlisted crew, as well as with numerous elected, governmental, industrial and military officials.
The Gala began with the two Naval Commanders, Warren Cupps (Gold Crew) and Randy Blankenship (Blue Crew), escorting Ship Sponsor Kay Granger into the grand ballroom. As Commanders Cupps and Blankenship assumed position on center stage, Mark Kelsey, Commander of the Admiral Chester W. Nimitz Squadron of the Texas Navy, appeared to present them with two personalized Texas Stetson hats. The Texan character of the Commanders then was established. The silk headliners inside bore a large image of the Crest of the USS Fort Worth.
Several unique paintings and various forms of artisan accomplishments and sculpture were presented to the Commanders to receive on behalf of the Ship and the Crew.
Congressional member Kay Granger gave a bronze
Sculpture, Grit and Tenacity, a Fort Worth Texas Ranger mounted on his horse. It is a unique creation, and a limited number will be cast by the artist, the funds for which will benefit the USS Fort Worth Committee.
Dozens of specially meaningful tokens were displayed on the front tables. The Sons of the Republic of Texas, the Fort Worth Chapter, is planning an annual prize to be won by a sailor-of-the-year selection made by the Commanders.
The Fort Worth-based Captain Jeremiah Brown Squadron of the Texas Navy gave an 1851 Texas Navy Colt Revolver replica on a plaque, with its engraving commemorating the Battle of Campeche. That is the only maritime battle between a Navy sailing ship and a Navy steam powered ship whereby the sailing vessel was victorious, and it was won by our Texas Navy! Also, the Republic of Texas purchased for its Texas Navy Officers the first military order from Colt for its original revolver in 1836.
Saturday began at 8 bells (8:00 AM) at the historic Galvez Hotel. A Chairman provided continental breakfast and briefing about logistics of the day were addressed to about 400 guests, all of whom were transitioned at 9:30 AM in ten charter busses to Pier 21 for the Commissioning site. Reserved seating of about 700 chairs were in place on the pier, with many visitors standing. The covered pavilion in place at the starboard side of the ship (right) was the central focus for the Commissioning contingent. Addresses began at 10:00 AM with much explanation for the audience about what was being done and why. We thrilled to the raising of the American Flag and the Commissioning Pennant Flag, following the charge by Representative Kay Granger, Man your ship, and bring her to life. It was an act of birth, bringing life to the ship, realizing its assigned mission. At the correct moment, the crew was sent charging up each end of the ship to occupy their places. This represented new life and new birth in the ship.
One aspect that struck me favorably was the number of times speakers, especially the Navy personnel, gave reference to the grace of God and His protection regarding the ship and crew.
A football-sized open-air tent in the parking area near the ship provided bar-b-cue lunch for several thousand people, cheerfully and efficiently served by Queens Bar-B-Cue caterers of Galveston. It has been a mainstay culinary resource for 36 years. Our interview Sunday with the proprietors reported their provision of 1,200 pounds of chopped beef as well as bar-b-cue turkey, with beverages, chips and cookies. Suzanne and I had another delightful lunch with them Sunday after church.
Almost 200 photographs of the weekend are posted on the Facebook account at Dwight Albert Sharpe, for your viewing pleasure.
The next step for the USS Fort Worth is to move from s assigned port of the San Diego Naval Base. Over land, that is about 1,600 miles, but the way our ship goes, through the Panama Canal, it is an 8,000-mile journey. My only question is, since the ship operates in shallow water, and the Trinity River empties into Galveston Bay, why could not our ship take a quick visit up Trinity River to Fort Worth? Well, we all could dream! We bid farewell and the speed of God to the crew and ship as we maintain our friendships for them in our hearts and minds.
D. A. Sharpe
805 Derting Road East
Aurora, TX 76078-3712