Ingalls shipyard handed over the America to the Navy Thursday. The christening took place on the flight deck of the ship with about two thirds of the crew on board. Sailors stood at attention while their new captain accepted the America on behalf of the U.S. Navy. It was a bittersweet day for Ingalls workers as they handed over their three year project for the greater good.
George S. Jones, the Program Director at Ingalls, says, "It is hard to say goodbye to the product when you've put your heart and soul, and long nights and long days into it, but you're also proud to see it sail away through the channel. It makes you feel good. It makes you feel that you're a part of something bigger than yourself." Ingalls's President says the America is one of the most complicated projects they've ever worked on, but their experience and skilled workforce were able to put together all the pieces.
This is the first America-class ship to be amphibious, meaning it will sail and carry planes. Capt. Robert Hall Jr., a Navy Commanding Officer, says, "This ship is suited for any mission the Navy, Marine Corp has from full presence, power projects, deterrents, humanitarian assistance, disaster response, raids, assaults. It's a very multi-capable ship." While every project is important to Ingalls, this ship, with the namesake America, has a special place in their heart. Brian Cuccias, the President of Ingalls, says, "I think with the ship called America, it kind of brings out all your patriotism, all your pride to be an American, and while these ship builders work very hard every day, no matter what project they build, I think being America, they pushed a little bit harder."
Eleven hundred sailors and marines will be setting sail in July, traveling around South America to get to San Francisco. Along the way, they'll be stopping at ports to participate in training exercises with other countries’ military. They don't yet have assigned missions, but the crew is still excited to get unpacked. Mark Gackowski, a Flight Deck Operator, says, "This is a brand new ship. Everyone is enthusiastic to be here and can't wait to start operating and put this great warship into the fight." As Ingalls hands this ship over, they continue work on the Triple E as their next Navy project.