ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Clouds, stormy seas and fog hampered and delayed the USS Sioux City's voyage to Annapolis.
But the sun broke out bright and early Saturday morning, and though clouds rolled in and a chilly breeze kicked up, nothing was going to cool the excitement in the air as the first U.S. Navy ship named for Sioux City officially joined the Navy fleet.
Tied to the Dewey Seawall at the U.S. Naval Academy, the USS Sioux City was "brought to life" here, more than six years after Sioux City learned it would be the ship's namesake city.
"Officers and crew of the USS Sioux City, man our ship and bring her to life," ship sponsor Mary Winnefeld called out to the crew, standing at parade rest before her.
"Aye, aye," crew members yelled out. Then one by one, sailors hustled to the ship, each shaking Winnefeld's hand before heading to one of two ramps up to the ship, running on board and taking a spot standing at attention at the rails.
A rousing round of cheers and applause from the more than 6,000 people, many of them making the 1,200-mile trip from Sioux City, accompanied the sailors while the Naval Academy band played "Anchors Aweigh."
Soon, the ship's horns began to blow, radars spun, the gun turret turned. The crowd's cheers grew louder.
"What a great day," the ship's commanding officer, Cmdr. Randy Malone, said once the crew was on board. He thanked Sioux City and its residents who have welcomed him and crew members every time they've visited, making them feel at home.
"We are proud to sail in your name," Malone said.
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In return, the citizens of Sioux City, and all of Iowa, are proud to be represented by a crew that will honor the city and state through its hard work and shared vision, said Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, the commissioning ceremony's featured speaker.
"You are all now the children of Iowa," Ernst said. "It speaks volumes that this ship carries the great name of USS Sioux City."
In February 2012, the Navy announced that Sioux City would be the name of the 11th ship of its new littoral combat ship class, designed to sail in shallow waters near shore. That unique design enabled it to sail into the shallow Severn River alongside the Naval Academy and become the first Navy warship ever commissioned here.
It made the commissioning a historic event not just for Sioux City, but also for Annapolis, which provided a warm welcome for its Iowa visitors all week, creating a bond between the two cities.
"We are honored to be participating in this historic occasion with all of you," Sioux City mayor pro tem Dan Moore told the crowd. "The relationships of the people will live and live and live for many decades to come."
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson cemented that relationship minutes later as he approached the podium and looked toward Malone.
"I hereby place the United States Ship Sioux City in commission," he said. "May God bless and guide this warship and all who shall sail her."
Cmdr. Chavius Lewis, the ship's executive officer, ordered the ship's colors and commissioning pennant hoisted, and Malone read his official orders to command the ship and reported for duty to Richardson. As Malone set the ship's first watch, Siouxland Chamber of Commerce president Chris McGowan presented the officer of the day with a ceremonial long glass, symbolic of the days when crews used looking glasses to aid in their navigation.
The ship is capable of surface warfare and can be modified for anti-submarine or anti-mine missions. It could be deployed to protect shipping lanes in which Iowa products are transported to overseas markets, stopping drug smugglers or a number of other missions.
Whatever its mission, it will carry Sioux City's name across the world, Lewis said when addressing the crowd at the start of the ceremony.
"The ship's crew is proud to represent the Sioux City name as we prepare to defend the American way of life whenever and wherever," he said.
Wherever the ship may travel, the pride of Sioux City and its citizens will be there, too.
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