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Navy Christens Newest Lewis, Clark-Class Ship Washington Chamber

Release Date: 9/13/2010

By Sarah Burford, Military Sealift Command Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE 11), the Navy's newest ship in the Lewis and Clark-class of dry cargo/ammunition ships, was christened and launched Sept. 11, during a morning ceremony at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego.

The 689-foot Washington Chambers, designated T-AKE 11, slid into the water for the first time as the ship's sponsor broke the traditional bottle of champagne against the bow. Chambers' sponsor is Loretta Penn, wife of former Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations and Environment and former Acting Secretary of the Navy, B.J. Penn.

"I think Washington Chambers would be pleased, not for the ship that bears his name, but for the achievements of the Navy he loved so much," said Rear Adm. Richard J. O'Hanlon, commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic, as he addressed the nearly 1,000 people present at the event, including distinguished guests from the U.S. military and maritime industry. "Washington Chambers gave us a legacy of hard work and perseverance. Today, we honor him with a namesake that was not only built with his example at its forefront, but a ship that will serve the Navy with the same example by which he served."

Chambers is expected to be delivered to the Navy's Military Sealift Command next year following a series of tests and sea trials. The ship and its crew of 129 civil service mariners and 11 Navy Sailors will deliver ammunition, provisions, spare parts, potable water and petroleum products to U.S. Navy and other navy ships at sea, allowing them to remain underway and combat ready for extended periods of time.

"This is a monumental day," said Capt. Michael Flannigan, the ship's civil service master. "We remember the 9/11 attacks and launch this great ship. I'm honored to be a part of it, and can't wait to get on board, get to work and get out to sea and do what we do best – supporting the warfighters."

The ship honors Navy Capt. Washington Irving Chambers, a pioneer in naval aviation, who arranged the world's first airplane flight from a warship, confirming the potential for carrier-based naval aviation. The flight, flown by aviator Eugene Ely, was from light cruiser USS Birmingham (CL-2) Nov. 14, 1910.

Construction of Chambers began with the ship's keel laying Aug. 25, 2009. Washington Chambers is the eleventh of 14 ships in the class. The first 11 will serve as combat logistics force ships, and the last three are expected to be attached to maritime pre-positioning squadrons, which strategically place combat cargo at sea, enabling fast delivery to warfighters ashore.

MSC operates approximately 110 non-combatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically pre-position combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.

For more news from Military Sealift Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/MSC/.