NEW YORK --
Eyes sparkled and smiles spread wide as approximately a 100 distinguished visitors took an opportunity to tour USS New York and visit with her crew and embarked Marines Sunday.
Among the guests was former Secretary of the Navy, Gordon England, and his wife Dotty, the ship’s sponsor.
“By Naval tradition, the sponsor is always a woman,” explained Dotty. The sponsor also endows the ship with its spirit, she added.
USS New York was forged with 7 1/2 tons of steel from the World Trade Center in her bow and honors the memory of those killed in the attacks of 9/11.
“I really felt like I was giving the spirit of New York to the ship,” Dotty said. “I was very honored to do it.”
As the Englands and other guests checked in, they were greeted by the commanding officer of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 26, Col. Mark J. Desens, as well as USS New York’s commander, Cmdr. F. Curtis Jones. One portion of the tour showcased various types of Marine Corps equipment from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., which was on display for the guests showcasing Marine expeditionary capabilities.
Marines from SPMAGTF-26, a unit formed to support the ship’s commissioning, gave the guests a quick course on the exhibits and allowed the civilians to hold the weapons, try on personal protective equipment, and even climb inside of an M1A1 Main Battle Tank.
“That’s a sophisticated weapon!” exclaimed Jeff Wehrenberg, an airline executive from Queens, N.Y., after getting acquainted with an M16-A2 service rifle with an M203 grenade launcher attachment.
Children at the event smiled ear-to-ear as they tried on flak jackets and helmets while holding M-16s.
England’s grandchildren enjoyed using the gear very much, she said.
Eventually, the guests moved through all of the displays and finished the tour, many awed with what they had just taken part in.
“The weight of what you have to carry is incredible!” said Jennifer Adams, the chief executive officer of the September 11th Families Association, after personally testing some of the gear used by Marines.