Navy ship geared for terror war set for commission
Published: Saturday, January 28, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 28, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
ABOARD THE FORREST SHERMAN - Suicide bombings and biological attacks weren't in the picture when the first USS Forrest Sherman was commissioned a half century ago. But the Navy believes the new Forest Sherman, which will be commissioned Saturday, will become key tool in the war against terrorism.
The guided-missile destroyer, named for a famed World War II strategist and former chief of Naval operations, will receive its USS designation after ceremonies at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
Another USS Forrest Sherman was commissioned in 1955 and retired in 1992.
The Sherman is 48th of 62 Arleigh Burke class destroyers authorized by Congress. It includes some design features, like touch-screen navigation and an all-digital phone system, that were not a part of previous Arleigh Burke class ships. Other features in the Forrest Sherman are unique to newer destroyers.
The Sherman's firefighting equipment is spread throughout the ship instead of in centralized lockers, a response to the 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors.
"In the (USS) Cole, certain lockers were hit and they lost an enormous amount of equipment in concentrated areas," Cmdr. Michael Van Durick said.
The Sherman's air filtration and airtight valve system protect the crew from chemical, radiological and biological threats.
The ship's automated common diagram allows sailors in any area of the ship to view damage to a specific section of the ship instantly.
"We can reconfigure the ship and keep on fighting very quickly," Van Durick said.
The ship can launch up to 96 missiles and is designed to defend against air, water or ground attacks. It will carry two SH-60 helicopters, anti-submarine aircraft.
Van Durick and his crew of 310 guided the ship into port a week ago using computer touch-screen technology.
The 41-year-old commander prefers to use the ship's old-school helm and hasn't gotten used to steering the ship with his index finger on a computer screen.
But the 19- to 23-year-old petty officers who man console stations throughout the ship have had little trouble mastering the new technology.
"I'm like an old dinosaur," said Van Durick, a Pennsylvania native and Naval Academy graduate.
Numerous members of the Sherman family will be on hand for the ship's commissioning.
Sherman, a naval aviator and key adviser to Pacific fleet commander Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, is credited with helping devise the island-hopping campaign that contributed to the Allied victory over the Japanese. Sherman advocated taking only the islands necessary for the U.S. to establish airfields.
"It was a brilliant idea that saved thousands of lives," said Van Durick, who used a flat-screen television monitor to display a picture of Sherman with Adm. Chester W. Nimitz at the 1945 Japanese surrender.
Sherman went on to become chief of naval operations from 1949 until his death in 1951.
Sherman's daughter, 81-year-old Ann Sherman Fitzpatrick, will give the order to "man the ship and bring her to life," at Saturday's ceremony. Fitzpatrick was born in Pensacola during the time her father received flight training and served as an instructor in the city known as the "Cradle of Naval Aviation."
Fitzpatrick pushed for the ship to be commissioned in Pensacola, where the airstrip at Pensacola Naval Air Station also carries her father's name.
Fitzpatrick said her father took to the sea from childhood. He was just 10 when his grandfather died of heart attack while the two were sailing alone, she said.
"His grandfather had been captain of a whale ship. He told him what to do. He turned the flag upside down and he sailed back to shore," Fitzpatrick said.
Naval historians remember Sherman as Nimitz' right-hand man during the later part of the pacific campaign.
"Because (Sherman) was an aviator he understood the importance of air power and this was a fairly new idea. Aircraft carriers became the real weapon that won the war," said Tom Cuttler, of the U.S. Naval Institute.
Van Durick, who learned about Sherman after receiving command of the destroyer, found a description of Sherman as having "relentless fighting spirit" and made it the ship's motto, putting it on the Forrest Sherman's crest.
Commanding a new destroyer includes a small claim to Navy history for its commissioning officers, said executive officer Lt. Cmdr. Rob Brown.
"You become a plank owner, a member of the commissioning team. We will be bonged off when we leave or our next assignment," Brown said. "I was floored when the admiral handed out assignments and I got this. I had the best assignment in the room."
Comments are currently unavailable on this article