The U.S. Navy’s newest amphibious transport dock ship, USS Somerset (LPD 25), was commissioned during a ceremony Saturday at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Somerset is the ninth ship of the San Antonio class and is the final of three ships honoring the heroes of the September 11th attacks, joining the USS New York (LPD 21) and USS Arlington (LPD 24). The ship’s namesake is in honor of the courage of the 40 passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed near Shanksville in Somerset County, PA on 9/11.
“Somerset is a welcomed edition to the Fleet, make no mistake, this vessel along with the other San Antonio Class Amphibious ships represent America’s commitment to security around the world,” said Gen. James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, who delivered the principal address and spoke of the ship and employment to the nation. “When this ship sails the worlds oceans, she will carry the spirit and determination and the fighting spirit that has always defined America.”
USS Somerset was launched April 14, 2012 from Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Avondale Shipyard. Her bow contains steel from the “dragline”, or power bucket, used by crews to retrieve more than 95 percent of the airplane’s wreckage from the crash site.
The versatile San Antonio class ships incorporate both a flight deck to accommodate CH-46 helicopters and MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, and a well deck that can launch and recover landing craft and amphibious vehicles. Their increased vehicle space and substantial cargo-carrying capacity make it a key element of 21st century Amphibious Ready Groups, Expeditionary Strike Groups, and Joint Task Forces.
Somerset will provide improved warfighting capabilities, including an advanced command-and-control suite, increased lift-capability in vehicle and cargo-carrying capacity and advanced ship-survivability features. The Somerset will be led by a crew of 360 officers, enlisted personnel and Marines, with the ability to embark a landing force of up to 800 Marines.
The 24,900-ton Somerset is 684 feet in length, has an overall beam of 105 feet, and a navigational draft of 23 feet. Four turbo-charged diesels power the ship to sustained speeds of 22 knots.
Somerset’s commanding officer, Capt. Thomas L. Dearbon, spoke of her crew and her namesake’s heroic actions during the commissioning ceremony.
“We are here today to not only honor and pay tribute to the heroes of United Flight 93, but also to celebrate the commissioning of this great ship USS Somerset,” said Dearborn. “Somerset will leave a legacy that will never be forgotten by those wishing to do harm to this country. A ship is but a steel vessel, it is the crew that brings the ship to life. USS Somerset is truly a fine warship and the crew that mans her, is second to none.”
At the conclusion of the remarks, Somerset’s ship sponsor, Mrs. Mary Jo Myers, the wife of former Joint Chiefs of Staff retired Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, gave the time-honored command to “man our ship and bring her to life!”
“[Flight 93 passengers and crew members] exemplified such courage and bravery that day as they sacrificed themselves to protect others and to rally our nation they were indeed the first warriors in this war on terrorism,” said Myers. “Today we come together as families, but mostly as Americans to celebrate and witness this momentous occasion and wish the USS Somerset and her crew Godspeed.”
The commissioning ceremony capped off a week-long celebration in Philadelphia honoring the ship, her crew and the legacy of the 40 passengers and crewmembers of United Airlines of Flight 93.
The ship will now sail to its homeport of San Diego, California.