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The amphibious transport dock ship Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Arlington (LPD 24) is positioned at its berth at its new homeport of Naval Station Norfolk, March 22. Arlington was named for Arlington County, Va., and honors first responders and the 184 victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nick Scott/Released)
The amphibious transport dock ship Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Arlington (LPD 24) is positioned at its berth at its new homeport of Naval Station Norfolk, March 22. Arlington was named for Arlington County, Va., and honors first responders and the 184 victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nick Scott/Released)

Arlington Sets Course with “Strength, Honor, Fortitude”

The Navy commissioned the newest San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship, USS Arlington (LPD 24), April 6, at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. The ship is named for the county of Arlington, Va., and honors the first responders and the 184 victims who died when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon Sept. 11, 2001. Arlington’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Darren W. Nelson, reflected on the commissioning in this blog published on the eve of the ceremony.

The amphibious transport dock ship Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Arlington (LPD 24) is positioned at its berth at its new homeport of Naval Station Norfolk, March 22. Arlington was named for Arlington County, Va., and honors first responders and the 184 victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nick Scott/Released)
The amphibious transport dock ship Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Arlington (LPD 24) is positioned at its berth at its new homeport of Naval Station Norfolk, March 22. Arlington was named for Arlington County, Va., and honors first responders and the 184 victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nick Scott/Released)
Cmdr. Darren W. Nelson
Cmdr. Darren W. Nelson

It has been a long, eventful journey to get to this, the eve of our commissioning.

As I write, just a few hours prior to placing this ship into the service of our Navy and nation, I am honored to lead such a dedicated crew with the support of their families, privileged to enjoy the backing of our wonderful sponsor, Mrs. Joyce Rumsfeld, and humbled by the camaraderie of our brothers and sisters in uniform, the first responders of Arlington County.

Additionally, we have forged strong bonds with the folks in Arlington County who have worked closely with us to achieve a strong start on a journey which will take us far and challenge us daily, for many, many years.

But of course, the folks always with us, ever present, are the 184 victims and their families, who perished on Sept. 11, 2001. Wherever we go and whatever we do, we will honor them and the first responders as we carry these special folks with us, in heart and in mind as is our credo, with “Strength, Honor and Fortitude.”

I am confident as we set out, and full of hope for our Arlington team. With this group, it is hard not to be. Our crew is dedicated, with a great mix of experience and youth, coming together as we address our Navy’s “Sailing Directions.” With a mindset of Warfighting First, this crew has trained hard and has excelled often in order to be prepared when they are called upon. They have aced crew certification challenges, assessments and assorted tests, scoring higher than fleet averages in taking ownership of their ship right from the start. And, they are learning that there are individual and group contributions to be made daily in order to be prepared, in order to be a proficient warfighter.

Our programs are being developed with a mix of senior leadership and new petty officers who are forging success from the deck plates up. Together, this Navy-Marine Corps team is learning and growing, coming together to get the most out of this ship, designed to be the most survivable amphibious vessel ever put to sea.

Sailors assigned to Precommissioning Unit Arlington (LPD 24) volunteered for Habitat for Humanity of South Hampton Roads, March 17, 2012.
Sailors assigned to Precommissioning Unit Arlington (LPD 24) volunteered for Habitat for Humanity of South Hampton Roads, March 17, 2012.

This teamwork is on display in our community as well.  Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.”  Off to a great start in making a living aboard Arlington, we are enriching lives by giving nearly 5,000 hours of service to our community in the last year, as logged by more than 300 of our crew.

We have been preparing for tomorrow since “day one.” Tomorrow, with courage and patriotism, we will begin a new chapter, with a new “day one” for Arlington Sailors, but for the victims’ families and first responders as well. To be able to “bring this ship to life” tomorrow will be an amazing feat that will challenge the limits of many folk’s emotions.

With the Pentagon and 9/11 in our thoughts, there’s no place I’d rather be than at the helm of USS Arlington.

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About Jason Kelly

Twitter: @JasonKellyPAO

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