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Middletown woman to be sponsor of new ship, USS Harrisburg

Posted 10/16/19

Middletown resident Alexandra Curry has been chosen  to sponsor a ship the Navy is building to be named the USS Harrisburg, to honor Harrisburg and the people of central …

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Middletown woman to be sponsor of new ship, USS Harrisburg

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Middletown resident Alexandra Curry has been chosen  to sponsor a ship the Navy is building to be named the USS Harrisburg, to honor Harrisburg and the people of central Pennsylvania.

“Today the U.S. Navy has bestowed upon Harrisburg an incredible honor,” Curry, wife of Middletown Mayor James H. Curry III, said during an event in the state capital Rotunda on Thursday, during which she and Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer announced the ship.

“I have been asked to be a sponsor of the next amphibious transport dock ship, which has me beaming with pride,” Curry said. “It is my absolute pleasure to announce the name of this ship, the USS Harrisburg,” which led to loud and sustained applause among those attending the event, including Spencer, U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse, and many others.

Curry described ship sponsorship as “one of the oldest and most hallowed traditions of the U.S. Navy, beginning in 1846 when the first woman sponsor christened a sloop in Germantown.

A sponsor is selected by the secretary of the Navy for her relationship to the namesake or the ship’s mission. She is said to instill her spirit into the heart of a Navy warship.”

“I feel especially connected to the USS Harrisburg already for so many reasons,” Curry continued in her remarks. “The amount of respect and gratitude I have for our great military is hard to even put into words.”

Curry said her own brother-in-law, a lieutenant, had been deployed on a ship similar to the one to be built as the USS Harrisburg. That ship “safely delivered him home to our family in March 2016,” she said.

Spencer in his remarks later in the event noted Curry’s “energy” and “commitment.”

“I think she is going to make an outstanding sponsor, a sponsor that lives through the life of the ship,” Spencer said.

Spencer during the event did not say why Curry was chosen sponsor of the ship. Spencer did say that his own wife had been “lucky enough” to be chosen sponsor for the USS Nantucket, another new Navy ship whose keel was laid down during an Oct. 9 ceremony in Wisconsin.

“It’s an amazing role to play,” he said.

A sponsor is“a central figure in a ship’s life,” according to a June 2017 article about the traditions of ship commissionings posted on a website devoted to the history of the U.S. Navy, USNhistory.navylive.dodlive.mil.

A ship’s sponsor is a woman chosen by the secretary of the Navy, and as Curry noted typically selected for her relationship to the namesake or to the ship’s current mission, according to the article.

“It is a great honor to be named the sponsor of a United States Navy ship or a ship that sails with the Navy supporting the fleet,” according to the webpage of the Society of Sponsors of the United States Navy.

“The sponsor’s role is an important one. She will participate in all or some of the milestones in the life of her ship and her experiences will be memorable.”

Those milestones include the sponsor etching her initials into the keel plate when the keel of the new ship is laid, and smashing a bottle of champagne against the bow of the ship when the ship is christened, according to the society.

The San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship, LPD 30, will be the second U.S. Navy vessel named after the city of Harrisburg, the Navy said in a press release.

The first was a troopship the Navy acquired during World War I that served in commission from May 29, 1918 to September 25, 1919. That ship also served with the Navy in the Spanish-American War under another name.

The Navy noted the presence of the Naval Support Activity base in Hampden Township. During the Civil War, Camp Curtin, located in what is now uptown Harrisburg, served as the largest camp during the conflict with more than 300,000 enlistments passing through its gates, the Navy said in the release.

“The people of central Pennsylvania have always played a critical role in forging the strength of our Navy and fighting to defend our nation,” Spencer said in the press release. “The future USS Harrisburg will carry on this legacy to every part of the world.”

San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ships support amphibious assault, special operations or expeditionary warfare missions and can serve as secondary aviation platforms for amphibious ready groups.

USS Harrisburg will be constructed at Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

The ship will be 684 feet long, have a beam length of 105 feet and be capable of operating at speeds in excess of 22 knots, the Navy said.