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PORTLAND COUNCIL OF THE NAVY LEAGUE/US NAVY - The commissioning ceremony for the USS New York took place in New York on Nov. 7, 2009. It is a sister ship to the USS Portland.The first US Navy vessel to be named exclusively after Portland will be commissioned here in late 2017.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced on April 8 his decision to have the USS Portland commissioned in the Rose City. Although the San Antonio-class amphibious transport vessel is named after Portland, local supporters had to work for the ceremony to be held here.

If all goes as planned, the commissioning of the USS Portland will take place at a large public event, dockside at Terminal 2, in late 2017. The ship will actually arrive a week early for preliminary celebrations at social, educational and civic events. Crew members will be hosted at various events around the city to ensure that they have good memories of Portland and look forward to return visits. There will be the traditional receptions, dinners and activities to honor people who organized the commissioning and supported the ship and her crew.

"This will be a great time for all of Portland to show their pride and come out to welcome the sailors from the ship that will show our city’s name around the world,” said Gary Piercy of the Portland Council of the Navy League, an organization of mainly Navy veterans that has been leading a campaign to have the ceremony in Portland.

Piercy and other league members were already scheduled to make a presentation to the City Council on their efforts on Wednesday morning. They still hope to enlist more volunteers and raise additional funds to support the ceremony, which is expected to run over several days and attract veterans and military buffs from across the country.

“The commissioning ceremony of a Navy ship is steeped in a time-honored tradition that places a ship in active service,” says Mike Hewlett, chairman of the PCNL, an international organization of civilians that supports the maritime services, including the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marines, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Merchant Marine.

The future USS Portland was successfully launched at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., on Feb. 13. It is scheduled to be christened there on May 21. Mayor Charlie Hales was planning to attend at the invitation of the Navy secretary, but canceled the trip after Mississippi enacted legislation criticized as allowing discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people.

The USS Portland is also known as the LPD (Landing Platform Dock) 27. According to the Navy, such ships are versatile players in maritime security, with the ability to support a variety of amphibious assault, special operations or expeditionary warfare missions, operating independently or as part of amphibious readiness groups, expeditionary strike groups or joint task forces.

In addition to performing their primary mission, San Antonio class ships have supported anti-piracy operations, provided humanitarian assistance, and foreign disaster relief operations around the world.

"We anticipate that LPD27 will be open for public tours most days, offering an excellent opportunity to meet ‘our sailors’ and discover how sharp and intelligent they are. With the support of our community, we can do a remarkable job of making this truly 'Portland’s Ship,' in every sense of the words," Hewlett says.

A previous Portland Tribune story about the USS Portland can be read at:

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