The USS Little Rock LCS 9 is now in service to the United States. After months of anticipation, the Navy's newest warship was formally commissioned Saturday at Buffalo's Canalside.
After remarks by numerous dignitaries, including naval officers and elected officials, it was Vice Admiral Luke McCollum who made it official.
“On behalf of the Secretary of the Navy and for the President of the United States, I hereby place the United States Ship Little Rock in commission,” McCollum declared. “May God bless and guide this warship and all who sail in her.”
Then the first watch was put in place and soon after it was the ship's sponsor, Janee Lambert Bonner, who had the honor of putting the crew into action, ordering them to "bring her to life." They sprinted, one by one, past the guests, up the ramp and aboard the vessel. As the weapons systems were turned and tested, though not fired, the crew stood at attention along the port side of the ship.
An estimated 8,500 people were in attendance, braving the cold and the occasional snowflakes that came with it.
Among the visitors was Commander Patrick Callan. He is from Fredonia and enrolled full-time at the Naval War College in Rhode Island. He spoke of seeing the new Little Rock commissioned next to its decommissioned namesake.
“As a kid, to come up here and walk onboard the Little Rock, the original one, and to bring family here, it’s a great way to show off the Navy and to commemorate the history of the Navy,” Callan said. “To see a new warship, I’ve been in the Navy 19 years and I haven’t attended a commissioning. I’ve been on plenty of ships and to be in our back yard, essentially, and experience that is fantastic, especially to share it with family and friends.”
Tributes were paid to the original Little Rock during the ceremony. Among those offering them was Senator John Boozman of Arkansas, one of an estimated 40 delegates from that state who came to Buffalo for the ceremony.
“During its time as a light cruiser and then as a guided missile cruiser, the original USS Little Rock and its crew were vital to defeating growing threats,” Senator Boozman said. “Thousands of sailors served aboard the USS Little Rock, including former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.”
The old Little Rock resides permanently in the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park. The new USS Little Rock LCS 9, meanwhile, will stay docked at Canalside until its anticipated departure by Tuesday.
The ship will be stationed in Jacksonville, Florida.