Cumberland Times-News

February 6, 2013

Senators want USS Somerset commissioned in Pa.

Ship under construction in New Orleans

DAVE SUTOR
Johnstown Tribune-Democrat

— JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey Jr. believe the most appropriate place for the USS Somerset to begin its active duty is in Pennsylvania.

The ship, which is under construction at Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in suburban New Orleans, is scheduled to be commissioned later this year. Louisiana and Maryland have been mentioned as possible locations to host the official ceremony.

But the commonwealth’s senators want it to occur in Philadelphia because the vessel is named for the Pennsylvania county where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“The Somerset should be commissioned in Pennsylvania, and I have asked Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to bring her to Philadelphia for the occasion,” Toomey said.

“The ship is named in honor of the courageous passengers whose action prevented the terrorists from killing many more Americans. Our state and our citizens would be privileged to have the ship begin its service to the country in the Port of Philadelphia. I hope Secretary Mabus agrees.”

Casey added, “The citizens of Pennsylvania are committed to honoring the brave members of Flight 93. It is fitting to have the commissioning of the USS Somerset in Pennsylvania, and I am hopeful that we will have the opportunity to pay tribute to the victims and their family members this way.”

Having the ceremony in the state would enable Somerset County residents to attend more easily.

“We feel the appropriate thing to do would be to have it commissioned in Philadelphia,” Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk said.

The San Antonio class amphibious transport dock will be used for both humanitarian and military purposes.