The U.S. Military Sealift Command christened the high-speed transport USNS Guam, during a ceremony at Naha Military Port in Naha, Okinawa, Japan, April 27.
Earlier plans to christen the ship in Guam were thwarted by unforeseen typhoons in the region and a high tempo by the ship's schedulers, but Guam Delegate Michael San Nicolas was among those speaking to the crowd during the ceremony.
U.S. Navy photos by Grady T. Fontana
The USNS Guam is an aluminum catamaran designed to be fast, flexible and maneuverable, even in austere port conditions, making the vessel ideal for transporting troops and equipment quickly. Another speaker was U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry B. Harris Jr.. Also present was the USNS Guam's sponsor, Bruni Bradley, a 25-year Navy veteran and wife of Harris. "The Navy has a glorious history of naming ships after heroes, epic battles and key places in the U.S.; and this ship is no exception," said Harris, who is also a former Navy admiral. "Guam is the site of one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific campaign (of World War II). "Although most of the greatest generation are no longer with us, we can hear their stories of duty, honor and courage. Their spirits walk among us, and with us, and call out to us. Today, we've answered their call with an innovative ship, which serves as a reminder of their heroism and a tribute to a beautiful place called Guam, USA," he added. The ceremony was capped by a time-honored tradition, when Bradley officially declared the Guam christened prior to breaking a bottle of sparkling wine against the ship's side railing of the main deck.
The USNS Guam was acquired by the Navy from the Department of Transportation in 2012 and underwent renovations before it became operational in late 2017 when it replaced the Westpac Express as a III MEF asset. According to Smith, the value of USNS Guam to the III MEF is that the ship can be quickly reconfigured for any cargo requirement: from supporting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; to transporting Marines, Sailor and equipment throughout the Indo-Pacific theater. "This ship is vital to us," said Smith. "It carries the most precious cargo that there is.the Marines and Sailors of the III MEF." USNS Guam is preceded in service by the patrol gunboat USS Guam which was renamed Wake in 1941 and captured by the Japanese later that year, the Alaska-class large cruiser USS Guam) in service 1944-1947, and the Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship USS Guam in service 1965-1998.