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ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Cmdr. Randy Malone has served on board a number of ships during his 32-year Navy career.

The USS Sioux City is unlike any of them.

"The technology and power of this ship outweighs them all," Malone, the ship's commanding officer, said Thursday while giving media members a tour of the ship prior to its Saturday commissioning at the U.S. Naval Academy.

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USS Sioux City commissioning tour
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USS Sioux City commissioning tour
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USS Sioux City commissioning tour
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USS Sioux City commissioning tour
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USS Sioux City commissioning tour

It's definitely come a long way since Jan. 30, 2016, when it was launched and christened at the Marinette, Wisconsin, shipyard at which it was built. It was a shell then, yet to be decked out with all the technology on full display Thursday.

It's also alive now.

While Malone showed off the USS Sioux City to reporters and photographers, crew members went about their work, many of them sporting caps reading "USS Sioux City LCS 11," signifying the Sioux City's spot as the 11th ship of its kind in the littoral combat ship class.

Amid all the surroundings of a modern warship, it's easy to forget that the USS Sioux City is also home to 75 crew members. Walking down a narrow hallway with doors to berths in which four sailors bunk together is somewhat similar to walking through a college dormitory. The smell of barbecue chicken filled the small galley as crew members ate lunch. A punching bag and exercise equipment stood in a makeshift workout area.

The USS Sioux City is a warship, no doubt, but seeing the crew move about brought a human element that was lacking back in Wisconsin.

Because of current technology, the USS Sioux City doesn't need as many humans to operate it. Walking past a display case in which Sioux City native and war hero Brig. Gen. George "Bud" Day and other items from Sioux City are commemorated, Malone led reporters onto the ship's bridge, the room from which the ship is commanded and operated.

"This is where technology has done a great thing," Malone said.

A destroyer needs up to eight crew members to man the bridge and operate the ship, Malone said. The USS Sioux City needs only three.

USS Sioux City commissioning tour

The USS Sioux City rests in the Severn River next to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, Thursday. It will be commissioned Saturday.

From three touch-screen monitors, an engineer can operate the ship, controlling the engines and water jets that power and steer it.

Inside the combat systems room a deck below are two rows of computer monitors from which sailors operate all weapons systems. At times, the USS Sioux City also will carry three remote-controlled helicopters, which will be operated from this same room.

But what makes the USS Sioux City and the other ships in its class unique, is its flexibility. Three large reconfigurable areas, similar to small warehouses and equipped with cranes to unload and move heavy equipment, allow the USS Sioux City to be switched in just days from surface warfare, its main duty, to anti-submarine or anti-mine missions.

"The entire ship is built around these spaces," said the ship's operations officer, Lt. Cmdr. T.J. Orth.

USS Sioux City commissioning tour

A U.S. Naval Academy midshipman salutes the American flag (not pictured) before departing the USS Sioux City Thursday. Midshipmen from the Academy, where the ship will be commissioned Saturday, have toured the ship since its arrival in Annapolis, Maryland, on Tuesday.

Malone said he's already impressed with the USS Sioux City's capabilities. In its trip from Marinette, through the Great Lakes, into the Atlantic Ocean and, finally, up the Chesapeake Bay to Annapolis, the crew encountered bad weather and heavy seas. It was an interesting trip, Malone said, but the USS Sioux City was up to the task.

"This is probably the best ship that'll come out of Marinette," he said.

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Coming next

The Journal today continues its special coverage leading up to the commissioning of the USS Sioux City at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, on Saturday.

Today: Nick Hytrek and Tim Hynds tour the the Naval vessel and meets with the ship’s commander, Randy Malone and crew members.

Saturday: Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly talks about the USS Sioux City’s mission during exclusive Pentagon interview

Sunday: Highlights of Saturday’s commissioning ceremony and the Taste of Siouxland banquet

Monday: The ship departs Annapolis for its home port in Florida.

Coming next

The Journal today continues its special coverage leading up to the commissioning of the USS Sioux City at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, on Saturday.

Today: Nick Hytrek and Tim Hynds tour the the Naval vessel and meets with the ship’s commander, Randy Malone and crew members.

Saturday: Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly talks about the USS Sioux City’s mission during exclusive Pentagon interview

Sunday: Highlights of Saturday’s commissioning ceremony and the Taste of Siouxland banquet

Monday: The ship departs Annapolis for its home port in Florida.

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