BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- The new USS Little Rock will soon be making its way to the Queen City. It will be commissioned at the Buffalo Naval Park in December.
It is the first time in the Navy’s 242-year history it will commission a new ship alongside its namesake.
News 4 has learned Navy officials will be in Buffalo in the next week or two to decide where to dock the ship during its commissioning.
The new USS Little Rock has completed and passed its required tests in Marinette, Wisconsin, where it was built.
There will be ceremonies there at the end of next week.
“There’s what’s called the on-boarding,” said Maurice Naylon, the commissioning chairperson. “That’s where the crew will move on the ship, the ship will then be their home.”
He will go to Marinette for the ceremony next week.
The ship was supposed to arrive in Buffalo in September but Naylon said the required tests pushed it back. Now, the ceremony will be held mid-December.
“Frankly the crew has to get accustomed to the ship and it’s really the needs of the Navy,” he said. “The Navy does want to get the ship out onto blue water, out onto the ocean before the end of the year.”
This is the first time there will be a commissioning in Buffalo.
Naylon told News 4 the former Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, served on the original USS Little Rock and made the decision to give another ship the name.
The Little Rock Association, made up of servicemen and women who served on the Little Rock, was instrumental in convincing Mabus the commissioning should happen in Buffalo.
Naylon said the ship’s sponsor leads the pivotal moment of the ceremony.
“When Janée Bonner stands up to the microphone and says ‘Commander Peters bring this ship to life’, at that moment the symbolism is that the ship stops being a piece of metal that’s owned by Lockheed Martin and becomes an actual part of the fleet of the United States Navy,” said Naylon.
He said the ship will have a crew of about 70 people, considerably less than the 1,400 person crew that served on the original USS Little Rock.
“This will be a uniquely Buffalo event and it will be one we will remember for the ages,” said Naylon.
Naval Park volunteer and Navy veteran John Moffat said this is an important event to connect history with the future.
“It’s to really build a relationship between the ship, the crew, and Buffalo-Western New York-Erie County,” said Moffat. “And in this case also linking the past the ship, the cruiser, the Little Rock with the present, the LCS9 Little Rock.”
Moffat told News 4 it’s unusual for a ship to take a name already in use. He said it’s usually not until after a ship is scrapped or sunk its name is reused.
“In this case, we’re on what’s considered to be a National Historic Site and one of New York State’s historic sites and so for the new Little Rock to be named, given its name, when there is still and existing Little Rock is unusual.”
The ship will leave Buffalo through the St. Lawrence Seaway and head to its post outside of Jacksonville.
To register for tickets to the commissioning, click here.