Excitement builds for USS Portland commissioning
After the USS Portland arrives in town on April 14, a week of events are scheduled leading up to the official commissioning of the ship, and many of them are open to the public.
They will include tours of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship at Terminal 2, where it will stay through the April 21 commissioning ceremony.
The events are being organized by a volunteer Commissioning Committee that also lobbied the US Navy to hold the ceremony in Portland. It is headed up by members of the Portland Council of the Navy League, the local chapter of organization of mainly Navy veterans that supports such activities. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced his decision to have the USS Portland commissioned in town in April 2016.
Two members of the committee updated the City Council on the planned events on Wednesday. Chair Gary Piercy said over 6,000 people are expected to attend the commissioning ceremony. Although all have already been taken on a first-come, first served basis, public tours will be offered during the week leading up to it.
"We're very gratified by the response," said Piercy, whose committee raised over $250,000 in cash and in-kind contributions from over 100 donors to support the events.
Mayor Ted Wheeler read a proclamation recoginizing Portland's history as a port city and declaring April 21 to be USS Portland Day at the end of the presentation.
The USS Portland, also known as the LPD 27, the first US Navy ship named soley for the city. It is 684 feet long, 105 feet wide, displaces 25,000 tons, and carry up to 800 US Marines on board. The ship is also designed for humanitarian first-response situations, such as aiding disaster recovery efforts.
Other San Antonio class ships were used in an offshore support role after Hurricane Harvey in Houston (USS San Antonio), and after Hurricane Irma in Miami (USS New York). The USS Portland's motto speaks to the importance of this role: "First Responders: Brave and Determined."
"It's an honor for such a ship to be named after Portland," said committee member Nolan Johnson.
The USS Portland left the Ingalls Shipbuilding yard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, where it was built, on Dec. 15 of last year. It stopped in Key West two weeks later after traveling through the Caribbean, then squeezed through the Panama Canal on Jan. 9 on the way to its home port of San Diego.
The ship is scheduled to arrive in Astoria on April 13, then travel up the Columbia River to the Willamette River the next day. It is expected to dock at Terminal 2 around 4 p.m. on April 14.
Terminal 2 is owned by the Port of Portland at 3556 N.W. Front Ave. TriMet will be scheduling additional bus service to and from it during the week.
No public events are scheduled at Terminal 2 during the mornings because planned rehearsals for the ceremony. Some officers and other crew members will take tours of the city for various charities and attend a number of social events around town.
The christening ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 21. The gates will open at 7 a.m. For more information on the scheduled events, visit the committee's website at www.ussportlandlpd27.org.
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