The U.S. Navy will commission a new vessel, the USS Little Rock, on Dec. 16 in Buffalo, N.Y. The ceremony will take place alongside a ship by the same name that was decommissioned in 1976 and sits in the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park.
It’s the first time in the military branch’s 242-year history a new ship has been commissioned alongside a namesake ship, according to a press release from Arkansas Parks & Tourism.
The commissioning ceremony will be broadcast live, and a watch party is planned for 9:45 a.m. that day at the Ron Robinson Theater at the River Market in Little Rock. Doors will open at 9 a.m.
About 30 Arkansans including Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola and North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith will attend the Buffalo event, which has closed ticketing after receiving more than the anticipated 5,000 registrations, according to Arkansas Parks & Tourism.
“The commissioning itself is a huge event,” Ron Maxwell, the coordinator of the ship’s Namesake Committee, said in the release. He is a Navy veteran who served in the 1970s on the original USS Little Rock’s sister ship, the USS Oklahoma City.
“There’s a lot of history and protocol that goes into the commissioning of a new ship,” he said, citing a week of activities that include parties, receptions, memorial services, luncheons, sporting events and a tour of the ship.
The test runs for the USS Little Rock were completed in Lake Michigan earlier this year. The new ship is the ninth of 15 new Freedom-class littoral combat ships to be built, according to the press release. These ships are made for shallower waters and can get closer to the shoreline than larger ships can, and instead of propellers they use waterjets for propulsion. The ship also has a helicopter pad and a small boat ramp, and it can be used by small assault forces.
The ship’s name was chosen by Ray Mabus, former Navy secretary who served on the original USS Little Rock in the 1970s.
The livestreaming event at Robinson Theater is free and open to the public. Seating is limited to the first 300 attendees.
More information is available by contacting Maxwell at 501-590-0720.