September 24, 2018 – The jacket New York City firefighter Bill Butler wore on Sept. 11, 2001, never leaves the bridge of the USS New York (LPD 21).
Dust from the rubble of the World Trade Center has settled on a patch on the right sleeve, a Chinese dragon wearing a firefighter’s hat with the No. 6 — a logo for FDNY Ladder 6, which serves the city’s Chinatown district.
Butler never wore the jacket again after that day, and, ultimately, he donated it to the New York. It is just one of many tributes aboard the ship that nearly 300 Naval Undersea Warfare (NUWC) Division Newport employees saw as they took part in tours of the New York, USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USNS City of Bismarck (T-EPF-9) at Naval Station Newport Pier 2 on Sept. 19. The ships were in port to support the Naval War College’s 23rd International Seapower Symposium.
“I’ve worked at NUWC for two years so far, and seeing stuff like this definitely puts into perspective what we do here,” Kyle Knoth said. “It puts a lot more enthusiasm in you to do a great job.”
Knoth was joined by NUWC’s Corporate Operations Department co-worker Justin Walter and the two began their time on the pier aboard the New York, a 684-foot San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock commissioned on Nov. 7, 2009.
“This is by far the most impressive ship I’ve seen,” Walter said. “It’s nice to see America flex [its naval power] every now and then.”
The tour began in the 1,465 square-meter main vehicle storage area that has a movable ramp that allows direct access to the flight deck, where on this day, an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft was parked.
As one progressed throughout the tour, it was impossible to ignore the tributes to New York City throughout the ship. A large New York Giants football team logo is painted on the ramp leading to the well deck, where a landing craft air cushion vehicle (LCAC) was parked.
Adjacent to the well deck is another ramp leading up to the next deck of the ship. Painted on the bulkhead to the right is a portrait of former President Barack Obama and a quote attributed to him:
“Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11.”
The quote and portrait appear below a silhouette of the New York City skyline before the attack with the words “NEVER FORGET.”
If one were to walk to the top of the ramp — which leads to the upper vehicle storage area — and turn around, they would see a black, red and blue wall of the ship, which was forged from pieces of the World Trade Center.
In order to get to the bridge, one must walk down a corridor the Sailors refer to as Broadway, appropriately named for the posters of famous Broadway plays that adorn the walls.
The mess deck would make any New York sports fan jealous. Signed and framed jerseys of New York Giants players Justin Tuck, Hakeem Nicks and Eli Manning hang on one wall of the room, as Yankees, Mets, Jets and Buffalo Bills memorabilia have their own places elsewhere.
Still, reminders of the importance of the New York’s missions are never too far away, whether that be in the form of a twisted piece of metal from one of the towers, a subway sign for the Chambers St./World Trade Station stop or New York fire and police department uniforms.
“The memorabilia are a good tribute to the United States in regard to 9/11,” Ed Gong of NUWC’s Undersea Warfare Combat Systems Department said. “The connection between the city of New York and the ship is inspiring. I’m sure it gets the crew pumped up.”
For employees like Gong though, the tours of the ships were more than just sightseeing. As the technical project manager for surface hull, mechanical and electrical (HM&E) training, Gong saw some examples of how the work he does at NUWC Newport is implemented — particularly aboard the USS Lassen.
“This is great because it gives me exposure to a lot of systems that I work on,” Gong said. “The nice thing is I can identify a lot of the systems we do trainings for. It ties me closer to the end product as the project manager.”
A 509-foot Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, the Lassen was commissioned on April 21, 2001. The tour, though briefer than that of the New York — for obvious reasons — was also informative.
After boarding, employees made their way toward the bow where an officer described the radar, navigation and weapons capabilities of the Lassen.
The tour continued around the outside deck of the ship and toward the stern, where on the flight deck employees got an up-close look at a SH-60 Seahawk helicopter. A quick walk through the interior of the ship concluded the tour.
“This is a great opportunity to see this as a program we touch and have an impact on,” said Karen Ephrain, who supports Gong on the business side of the department.
Docked at the end of Pier 2 was the USNS City of Bismarck, the ninth expeditionary fast transport to be built — 12 are planned — in the Spearhead class. Much like its class nomenclature would suggest, the ship is designed to get a lot of cargo, equipment or troops to its destination quickly, as the 358-foot long Bismarck has a top speed of over 50 knots and a 20,000 square-foot mission bay.
The tour of the all-aluminum vessel began in the mission bay, where in addition to various vehicles, a dozen or so Marines were training with their rifles and a .50-caliber machine gun.
Guests continued through the interior of the ship with stops at the medical bay, mess hall and main passenger transport area, which resembles a larger version of a ferry’s passenger area. The tour concluded on the bridge with a discussion with the Bismarck’s captain and a general tutorial on how the ship is steered and operated.