SIOUX CITY | Petty Officer 3rd Class Tony Dailey heard the stories from his father about the July 4th tradition of many Sioux City residents.
"He told me stories about jumping over the border to buy fireworks," Dailey said of many Sioux Cityans' short trips to South Dakota fireworks stands to stock up on items not permitted in Iowa.
His father's family moved from Sioux City to eastern Iowa long ago, Dailey said, so this weekend he, as well as nine other members of the USS Sioux City crew, is seeing first-hand many Sioux City landmarks and traditions while learning more about the city and the people who live here.
"We wanted to bring crew members out here so people get to know them. Veterans Day weekend made sense. It allows us to get to know the city and the city to get to know us," said Cmdr. Shockey Snyder, who will be the ship's first commanding officer.
The USS Sioux City was christened and launched Jan. 30 at the Marinette Marine Shipyards in northern Wisconsin, where construction is now complete and builders are conducting systems testing.
Crew members arrived in Sioux City Wednesday. In addition to seeing some local attractions, they will visit schools, help serve lunch at the Gospel Mission, drop the puck at Saturday's Sioux City Musketeers hockey game and provide the color guard at the Veterans Day service Friday at the Woodbury County Courthouse and for Saturday's Morningside College football game.
The four crew members who met with the Journal's editorial board Thursday morning said they knew little about Sioux City. Dailey, who grew up in Richland, Iowa, near Ottumwa, will be the lone Iowan among the initial 53 crew members. He's thrilled to be serving on board a ship named for a city in his home state.
"When I first saw the orders, I was blown away," he said. "It brings home to me when I'm so far away."
It will be a while before the USS Sioux City travels abroad. Months of testing lie ahead. The current time line calls for the ship to leave Wisconsin and Lake Michigan next November and head for the commissioning site, which has yet to be determined, but will be on the East Coast. A commissioning date has yet to be set.
Once commissioned, the USS Sioux City will go to its home base in Mayport, Florida, before it's deployed. Snyder said it's most likely to be deployed to the Middle East in the Arabian Sea and Red Sea areas, but "the ship could be deployed anywhere."
The USS Sioux City and other ships in the new littoral combat class are designed to be used closer to the shoreline and be used for mine detection, clearing mines, anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare.
Petty Officer 1st Class Magalie Shaw said it's an honor to be among the first crew to serve on board a new ship. The first crew determines many of the initial policies.
"You set the standard once you step on board," Shaw said. "We'll see what works and what doesn't work."