Remembering 9/11: Christening the USS Arlington


By Robbin Laird and Ed Timperlake


03/27/2011 – At a somber ceremony remembering the attack on the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and the fatal crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, officials gathered to christen the USS Arlington on March 26, 2011.  The event included Arlington County officials, members of families who had lost kin in the Pentagon attack, and USN, USMC and shipyard officials and workers.  The LPD-17 class will include ships named for the three sites where terrorists brought home to the United States the global conflagration, which has been called the war on terror.

The SLD team had a chance to meet a man and his wife who symbolized the American experience.  He was a Vietnam combat veteran, with eight close friends whose names are forever on The Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Tragically he and his wife were present to honor lost family members including two very young children when they were aboard the fatal American Airlines jet.  Seeing such a man brought home the loss, which Americans had that day. Indeed, this man symbolized for us the need and importance of American global engagement to reduce threats to the American homeland and to the continued American engagement to work with friends and allies to contain the terrorist challenge.

A key presentation was by Major General James Kessler, Commander USMC Logistics Command. The General provided a hard-hitting reminder of the commitment of the USN and USMC team to engage globally and to provide security for Americans. The General emphasized that for the USMC, after many years engaged in land wars, the Corps was returning to the sea.  He emphasized the growing significance of the littoral mission as global population and economic activity shifted to the littorals. And he underscored that the new LPD-17 would be at the heart of an expanded capability for the USN and USMC team.  He underscored the flexibility of this ship in supporting the spectrum of engagements, ranging from humanitarian to combat operations.

It was fitting on a day in which the USN-USMC Amphibious Ready Groups are in action worldwide from the Shores of Tripoli, with our Fleet in the Indian Ocean, to the Sea of Japan, the USS Arlington was christened. Those global commitments are the backdrop to the importance of giving the fleet new capabilities. With a complement of over 800 Marines, the USS Arlington and the sister ships in the class will stand ready off any coast.  It has the ability to take aboard or launch two MV-22 Ospreys at the same time and can carry five. The MV-22 is a revolutionary aircraft that can project forces quickly inland to establish combat presence. Four Medium lift Ch-46s can operate and soon heavy lift CH-53Ks and Zulu Cobras can complement an airborne strike package.

Two Landing Craft Air Cushion vehicles can leave the USS Arlington with a range of 200 miles at 40 KTs. It is far to say this ship will project Marines firepower ashore on the beach, over the beach or inland.  USMC Infantry riflemen will have significant supporting organic firepower and continuous logistical resupply to seize any objective. The USS Arlington has state-of-the art communication capabilities to reach out to both all ships in an Amphibious Readiness Groups and also reach back to Carrier Battle Groups supporting littoral combat engagements. In fact, there is currently a potential evolving tactical synergy between these new LSDs to work in concert with the new Littoral Combat Ship class. No one at the ceremony can predict today the full range of future capabilities.

But it has design features to embrace the entire spectrum of emerging technology, from linking to the USMC F-35B, to being a platform for the robotic revolution to launching UAS systems. The USS Arlington has the deck space and hull capacity to become a really integrated and effective ship for the “Gator Navy. The investment in this ship will be repaid many times over in the decades of service, which it and its crew will provide.  And the capabilities deployed in two years when it enters service will bear little relation to what will be placed on it decks in 30 years.  This is why investments in a multi-purpose ship makes such great sense, for the USN-USMC team and for the nation.