Alabama-built USS Montgomery hits open seas in active service for first time
The Alabama-built USS Montgomery took to the seas for the first time on active duty this week, just days after being commissioned in a ceremony steeped in glorious Navy tradition. Roughly 3,000 people gathered at the Port of Mobile to take it all in.
The National Anthem was played. The commissioning directive was read. The ensign was hoisted, the commissioning pennant broken. The ship’s new commander assumed command. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) delivered remarks. And a 19-gun salute was fired in honor of Sen. Jeff Sessions, whose wife, Mary, is the ship’s “sponsor.”
“Man our ship!” She declared, prompting the crew to run on board and man the rails.
The Montgomery is a Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) that was built in Mobile by the roughly 4,000 Alabamians employed at Austal USA. LCS ships are used in operations close to shore (the littoral zone). They have been compared to corvettes, built to swiftly move in fights with other vessels, as well as to hunt and destroy enemy submarines and mines.
“The LCS is the perfect vessel to fulfill multiple missions including surface warfare, mine counter-measure warfare, and anti-submarine warfare,” explained Rep. Byrne (R-AL1).
While the second to be named for the Alabama capital, a total of four Navy ships have previously borne the name Montgomery, according to the Department of Defense. The first USS Montgomery was a sloop, or schooner, that was in service on Lake Champlain from 1813 to 1815. The second USS Montgomery was a wooden screw steamer in the Union Navy during the U.S. Civil War. USS Montgomery (C 9), the third of her name and the lead ship of her class, was an unprotected cruiser that served during the Spanish–American War and in World War I. USS Montgomery (DD 121) was a Wickes-class destroyer commissioned in 1918 and later converted to a minelayer that saw service during World War II, where she earned four battle stars for meritorious participation in battle.
“The commissioning of USS Montgomery is not only a celebration of the partnership we share with the people of a great southern capital, but also of our nation’s highly skilled shipbuilders who, in building ships like Montgomery—the U.S. Navy’s eighth littoral combat ship—will help us continue to grow the fleet to more than 300 ships by the end of this decade,” said Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy. “This great ship, and the sailors who serve aboard her, will represent the city of Montgomery, Alabama, and our nation around the world for years to come.”
The task of driving the new USS Montgomery has been given to Lt. Anamarie Gonzalez, whose first challenge will be squeezing the 104-foot-wide sheep through the 105-foot-wide Panama Canal en route to the ship’s homeport in San Diego, California.
“It’s definitely intimidating,” Lt. Gonzalez told the Montgomery Advertiser. “All the other LCS have been able to make it through the Panama Canal. We’ve seen some lessons learned so we’re ready for the challenge.”