The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 1, 2014

Ship touted for diversity

PHILADELPHIA — USS Somerset will save lives.

The ship, which was commissioned Saturday morning at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia is, first, a U.S. Navy vessel that will take sailors and U.S. Marines into military situations. But it has a humanitarian mission, too. When disasters strike, the 684-foot-long San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock will offer relief to those in need.

“When tragedies happen around the world, this will be the kind of ship that will go in there and help our friends and allies around the world if a natural disaster occurs,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, whose 9th Congressional District includes part of Somerset County.

The ship can move approximately 1,000 people. There is a state-of-the-art medical facility on board. Helicopters and tilt-rotor aircraft can land and take off from its deck.

“It’s actually an extraordinary ship, and there’s no class of ships anywhere in the world that can rival it for the diversity, the range of capabilities that it brings,” said U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey.

LPD-25 was built by Huntington Ingalls Industries, a spinoff of Northrop Grumman, which received the original construction contract. It was the last vessel scheduled to be manufactured at the Avondale shipyard in Louisiana.

“It’s bittersweet and prideful,” said Irwin F. Edenzon, president of Ingalls Shipbuilding.

The company constructed the USS Somerset’s two sister ships, USS New York and USS Arlington.

“It’s the best one we’ve built yet,” said Wayne Davis, the USS Somerset’s program manager.

The three vessels were named after the locations hit by planes during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. USS Somerset honors the county where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed when passengers and crew members fought back against al-Qaida hijackers.

“This ship, with not only its wartime uses, but its humanitarian uses will serve for years to come as a living memorial to those who died in a barren field in Somerset County,” said Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.

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