JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —
The U.S. Navy warship USS Charleston was commissioned in its namesake city March 2, 2019, in Charleston, S.C.
After its christening in Mobile, AL, in 2017, the USS Charleston has been under final preparation for two years before being put in the water and deemed ready for active duty. The commissioning ceremony here is the last stop in a five-step process before the ship reports for duty on the West Coast.
“There are five steps of bringing a ship to the fleet,” said Patrick Keaveny, Navy League Charleston president and chairman for the commissioning committee. “The first is the naming. Next is the keeling, where they actually start to bend the metal and bring it to formation. The third step is the launching where it’s put in water, where it will forever stay. The fourth step is the christening where the ceremonial bottle is broken, which is a traditional step in the process that usually precedes the commissioning by about two years, because it’s pretty much an empty shell of what the ship will be when it’s commissioned.”
In the Navy, every ship is named from within several different categories including presidents, cities, states and communities of significance, which is the one the USS Charleston falls under. After that, the commissioning location is planned.
“It happens to be the 6th active duty naval ship to be named after Charleston, dating back to 1798,” said Keaveny. “Having the commissioning of the USS Ralph Johnson in Charleston just last year, it was easy for us to reach out to the city of Charleston and the mayor to get a collaboration for this commissioning.”
The USS Charleston is a Littoral Combat Ship, which is intended by the Navy to operate in more shallow waters than typical naval ships.
“These ships are designed to get in close to shore and get into places other ships can’t get into,” said Cmdr. Christopher Brusca, USS Charleston commanding officer. “They’re designed to have different mission modules. We’re going to be a mine warfare ship, detecting, hunting and destroying mines.”
South Carolina State Senator Tim Scott spoke at the ceremony, recognizing how special this ship will be.
“When you add the USS Charleston as one of the most lethal, agile weapons in our Navy, you’ve just added a true freak of nature to the United States Navy,” said Scott. “And we must have it because the USS Charleston has the ability to tackle asymmetrical threats like mines and quiet diesel submarines and, at the same time, fast surface ships. We have been blessed to have our Charleston defending this nation.”
The captain of the USS Charleston is not only the first captain of this ship, but also will be on his first tour as a ship captain, which to him means the ship and its namesake city will hold a special place.
“Every command I’ve been to, I’ve had a sense of pride walking off the ship for the last time, but I would be excited for the next duty station. Leaving this one is going to be different,” said Brusca. “It’s going to be a tough day when I have to turn it over to somebody else.”
Brusca not only relishes the fact the USS Charleston is named after the city, but also how the community welcomed him and his crew for this commissioning.
“The city of Charleston has a rich naval history. So the fact we’re able to commission here is a great honor,” said Brusca. “The city’s been outstanding. The mayor gave me a key to the city, but I haven’t had to use it because it’s been nothing but open doors here.”
While complimenting the city, Brusca also didn’t forget to mention the hard work his crew put in to get the ship to this point.
“This crew boarded this ship two years ago and it’s been hard work since that day, building the command from the ground up,” said Brusca. “Every captain in the Navy thinks they have the best crew. They don’t. I do.”
Although the USS Charleston will be stationed in San Diego, CA, the crew will not lose touch with the namesake city as they will be sent annually back to the Lowcountry to interact with the city and work with the Navy League of Charleston to maintain the relationship between the city and the ship.