USS Manchester CO Says Commissioning Saturday a Time to Celebrate Armed Services

May 24, 2018

Expect to hear big brass bands, a 19-gun salute and cannons at the New Hampshire State Pier on Saturday. That's when thousands will gather to watch the new USS Manchester officially get its title.

The 3,000 ton Navy vessel is part of a new line of combat ships. They are lighter, faster and can fight closer to the shoreline.

The ship also has a smaller crew. There are about 70 people total who man the ship, compared to about 300 crew members on a destroyer. 

"The Navy is adapting to the environment we operate in," said Executive Officer Jed Koppel. "Part of that is changing how we operate at sea and changing how ships are operated. Minimally manned, less weight, get closer to shore is what the Navy felt we needed to do."

A smaller crew size means a number of functions are automated, and each crew member knows how to do multiple things. 

For Commanding Officer Emily Bassett, the commissioning will be a time for recognizing and celebrating the armed services. 

The USS Manchester crew rehearses for the commissioning ceremony on Saturday.
Credit Daniela Allee / NHPR

"I think there are a lot of citizens of this country that want to pay their respects and don't know how," she said. "And one really meaningful way is to just connect with a sailor and ask the question: tell me what you do?"

That's a question Lt. Adrienne Penkacik wants to answer. She's originally from Nashua, and she said she's excited to share what she does with her family. 

In the days the ship's been in Portsmouth, Penkacik has also had a chance to share New Hampshire with her crew members. 

"Coming from a small state it's really cool to be able to share my small state that a lot of other people don't know about," she said.

Penkacik also had a role in planning the comissioning.  As part of the ceremony, the crew will be dressed in their choker whites, and "we're going to run aboard the ship, and man her, and man the rails and turn her to life. Turn on all of our radars and turn on our guns and watch the ship come to life."

The event is already sold-out, but those interested in watching can check out the livestream at 10 a.m. on Saturday. 

Afterwards, the crew will head back to San Diego to start their first mission of searching for and destroying mines.