What is a Commissioning?
After construction, the vessel gets underway to complete Builder’s Trials. Discrepancies to be repaired are noted and when the builder deems the ship ready for Acceptance Trials, it undergoes extensive inspections and testing by the Navy, both in port and underway. Upon completion of these tests and inspections, and subsequent correction of any noted major discrepancies, the Navy deems the ship ready to be delivered. Shortly after the ship is delivered to the Navy, the crew moves aboard and has several months to train and outfit the ship for sea duty. Upon completion of this training and outfitting, the ship is ready to be commissioned.
Prior to 1984, ships were generally commissioned where they were built. In 1984, USS Yorktown (CG 48) was commissioned in Yorktown, VA. From that point on, U. S. Navy ships have been commissioned at ports all around the United States to enable more citizens to see these impressive warships and celebrate this tremendous addition to our nation’s defense with their crews. This will be the sixth U. S. Navy commissioning in Pensacola. The previous five ships were:
USS Marc A. Mitscher (DDG 57) - December 1994
USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) - August 1998
USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) - June 2001
USS Forest P. Sherman - (DDG 98) - January 2006
USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110 ) - June 2011 (commissioned in Mobile, AL due to Pensacola ship channel depth restrictions)
**Note that all these ships remain in service, highlighting how long these capital assets serve in our Navy after commissioning.
Commissioning week is filled with receptions, tours, and presentations. It concludes with the commissioning ceremony itself, during which the ship is “ brought to life”. The crew races up the brows to break the commissioning pennant, activate the ship’s systems, and man the rail. It is the event of a lifetime for both the crew members and all who observe it. We expect over 5,000 in attendance at the ceremony, including Navy and Marine Corps Dignitaries, federal and state politicians, and local politicians and dignitaries, as well as the media.
For all purposes of law and tradition, the vessel then becomes a United States Ship. The Commanding Officer and crew come aboard and are entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining and operating their ship in peacetime and under conditions of war. This time-honored tradition for a crew member to be pronounced "a plankowner" of a newly commissioned vessel is a distinct honor and privilege.