PORTSMOUTH -- The future USS Manchester arrived on the Piscataqua River during lunch hour Monday, with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Gov. Chris Sununu aboard, as spectators watched the "modern marvel's" long-awaited Granite State debut from all along the city's waterfront.
At the New Hampshire State Pier, where the littoral combat ship will remain docked through its commissioning ceremony on Saturday, sailors' family members, veterans and various city officials waited among "welcome home" balloons and American flags. The USS Manchester (LCS 14) honors New Hampshire's Queen City, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is its official sponsor, her initials welded into its hull.
Five-thousand attendees are expected for the commissioning celebration, which will begin Saturday at 10 a.m. Tickets are now sold out.
"I have no words," said Lorena Quiroz as the 421-foot ship made its way up the river around 12:30 p.m. Quiroz' husband, Oscar Quiroz, is a USS Manchester crew member. Quiroz, her 14-month-old daughter, Jade, and mother, Debbie Sims, are staying in Portsmouth for commissioning week, traveling to New Hampshire for the first time from San Diego.
Sims served in the Navy for six years. "It's special for me to see him going through this," Sims said of her son-in-law. "We traveled down to Mobile, Alabama and saw the ship there. We've been there every step of the way."
Linda Duquette, of Derry, attended the ship's arrival with a group of Granite State Ambassadors, a volunteer nonprofit. As she took pictures of the USS Manchester passing under the Memorial Bridge, she said, "I'm feeling very blessed to be here. It's actually bringing tears to my eyes. I decided it was a historical moment and I shouldn't miss it."
The Navy initiated the littoral combat ship program in 2008 with two different designs. The USS Manchester is one of seven ships in the Independence Class of LCS, a program aimed to develop a multi-role ship that could operate in littoral waters, engage enemy submarines, clear mines, destroy fast attack boats, deploy unmanned vehicles and perform a variety of other missions by fitting them with mission modules according to situational requirements, according to the Navy.
Eric Gregg, of Portsmouth, is a member of the USS Manchester Commissioning Committee, which worked to arrange the week of events leading up to Saturday's commissioning. He noted the power of women behind the ship; Shaheen, its commanding officer Cmdr. Emily Bassett, and Manchester's first female Mayor Joyce Craig.
"I think it's awesome," he said. "I think it's great for the town and for New Hampshire. It'll be a great week."
"It's an absolutely beautiful morning and a great kick off to the summer in Portsmouth," added George Venci, of Stratham.
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Cmdr. David Hunt awaited the USS Manchester on the pier along with several other shipyard staffers. He said he had met Cmdr. Bassett several times before, most recently at a STEM event for robotics. "Absolutely amazing," he said as the ship began to dock, noting he had never seen a trimaran hull before.
Shaheen rode the ship into Portsmouth with her husband and three daughters. Descending onto shore to catch an approaching flight, she donned a USS Manchester ball cap.
"It's great to have the Manchester here, to be so close to commissioning," said Shaheen, who has been working with the ship's crew since 2011. "It was amazing, a perfect day for it. The weather could not have been better. The crew was very excited and very serious coming into port."
Petty Officer First Class Laryssa Noyes works on the ship's network and maintains its satellite communications. While much of the USS Manchester crew hails from the San Diego area, Noyes felt right at home Monday. She is a 2011 graduate of Pinkerton Academy in Derry.
"I really love being on ships and on your way out to sea," Noyes said. "I've learned so much and I've grown as a person. Saturday is going to be awesome because my whole family is going to be here and I'll get to show them what I've been working on for the last three years."
Saturday's commissioning ceremony, where the ship will officially enter the Navy's fleet, will be live streamed at http://navylive.dodlive.mil. Adm. Bill Moran, vice chief of Naval Operations, will deliver the principal address.
This article is written by Hadley Barndollar from Portsmouth Herald, N.H. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.