Christening USNS John Glenn

The following blog is by Rear Adm. T.K. Shannon, commander, Military Sealift Command, and provides some perspective on the christening ceremony Feb. 1 for USNS John Glenn (MLP 2).

SAN DIEGO (Feb. 1, 2014) Ship's sponsor Lyn Glenn breaks a bottle of champagne on the hull of the ship to bear her father's name, Mobile Landing Platform (MLP 2) John Glenn, and in doing so officially christens the ship. The ship, named in honor of U.S. senator, astronaut and Marine Corps pilot John Glenn, represents the newest platform in Navy-Marine Corps integration that will enable Sailors and Marines to be where it matters, when it matters for amphibious operations or humanitarian and disaster relief efforts among other roles. (U.S. Navy photo by MCC Peter D. Lawlor)

SAN DIEGO (Feb. 1, 2014) Ship’s sponsor Lyn Glenn breaks a bottle of champagne on the hull of the ship to bear her father’s name, Mobile Landing Platform (MLP 2) John Glenn, and in doing so officially christens the ship. The ship, named in honor of U.S. senator, astronaut and Marine Corps pilot John Glenn, represents the newest platform in Navy-Marine Corps integration that will enable Sailors and Marines to be where it matters, when it matters for amphibious operations or humanitarian and disaster relief efforts among other roles. (U.S. Navy photo by MCC Peter D. Lawlor)

What a way to start the month! Everything was in place on the San Diego waterfront:  Marine/Astronaut/Senator John Glenn – our newest Mobile Landing Platform – a bottle of champagne – all the elements needed to christen a mighty ship. And what a mighty ship she is!

 At 785 feet with a 164-foot beam, USNS John Glenn is an impressive, if somewhat unusual sight. Just think of the possibilities for using all that deck space and her ballasting/deballasting capabilities. She is a testament to American ingenuity, determination and imagination. This ship embodies the principles John Glenn and the teams at NASA embraced when they began America’s space program that resulted in historic, unprecedented space flights. The same principles guided Mr. Fred Harris and his team at General Dynamics-National Steel and Ship Building Company during the construction of our newest ship.

 As USNS John Glenn becomes fully operational, the principles of ingenuity and innovation will be embodied by our merchant mariner crew that will live and work within this amazing hull. At some point, in the not-too-distant future, the ship’s master will give the order to flood the deck.  As it goes awash, landing craft will come aboard to embark brave Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and Marines. Quickly they will depart over the horizon – maybe on a mission of mercy to help people facing a natural disaster… maybe on a rescue mission to a U.S. embassy in a troubled land… or maybe to thwart a terrorist act that threatens innocent lives. And that’s just scratching the surface.

 Our Military Sealift Command team stands ready to help make this ship do whatever our country can imagine – to take creative thinking and put it into action at sea.

 An example of that creative thinking is the MV Cape Ray, a U.S. Maritime Administration ship we deployed from Norfolk in January, crewed by U.S. merchant mariners just like those who will crew USNS John Glenn – volunteers all. Less than three months ago, Motor Vessel Cape Ray was just a cargo ship. Today, through American ingenuity and innovative thinking, she sails as a floating factory, ready to neutralize Syrian chemical weapon agents at sea!

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (Jan. 10, 2014) MV Cape Ray (T-AKR 9679) departs row General Dynamics NASSCO-Norfolk shipyard for sea trials. (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Jared Walker)

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (Jan. 10, 2014) MV Cape Ray (T-AKR 9679) departs row General Dynamics NASSCO-Norfolk shipyard for sea trials. (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Jared Walker)

 We take inspiration from that. It reflects the creative thinking that we will put into missions for USNS John Glenn. It’s the type of imaginative thought that will ensure our continued maritime supremacy and our place as a global force for good.

We will build on the base provided by the great men and women of the General Dynamics-NASSCO shipyard, who took raw steel and formed it into this mighty ship, a ship with flexibility and the future built in. Captain Patrick Rathbun, our ship’s first master, and his merchant mariners will take good care of our ship as they enjoy first honors sailing her on new and innovative missions for our nation.

No better name could adorn this ship than John Glenn: a risk taker and innovator, and a man who got the job done. As a Marine pilot, he took risks for our nation in WWII and Korea. He inspired our nation as an astronaut. And, as a U.S. senator, he did the hard work that is required to operate and advance our nation. Like John Glenn, our mariners on this ship will be called to play each of these roles at some point over the next 30 years as USNS John Glenn sails boldly forth, exploring new frontiers for America.

T.K. Shannon
Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy
Commander, Military Sealift Command

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