Two town leaders will represent East Millinocket and Millinocket when the USNS Millinocket is christened on Saturday.
East Millinocket Selectman Mark Marston and Millinocket Town Councilor Michael Madore will take an all-expenses-paid trip courtesy of the U.S. Navy to witness the event in Mobile, Alabama.
“I am very honored. I think it is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Madore said Thursday. “I am very proud of the Katahdin region and it is a tremendous honor for our veterans. We have so many veterans in our area who have served our country, and I think this is a great tribute to them.”
One of the U.S. Navy’s latest generation of shallow-draft transport craft, the ship was built in Mobile and will be named the U.S. Naval Ship Millinocket in honor of East Millinocket and Millinocket, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said in May 2012.
The U.S. Navy’s third joint high-speed vessel will follow in the tradition of the USS Stephen W. Groves, a guided-missile frigate named after an East Millinocket flyer posthumously awarded the Navy Cross during World War II, while also honoring the town of Millinocket. Built at Bath Iron Works, the Groves was decommissioned in February 2012, Mabus said in a statement.
The ship will become the second U.S. Navy vessel to be named Millinocket. The first was a freighter sunk by a German U-boat in 1942.
Shallow-draft transports for troops, military vehicles and equipment, can carry 600 short tons and travel 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots. They are designed to provide U.S. forces added mobility and flexibility, according to a U.S. Navy site dedicated to the subject.
They feature a 20,000-square-foot open mission deck, an aviation flight deck to support day and night air vehicle launch and recovery operations, and have berthing space for up to 42 crew members, 104 personnel, and airline-style seating for up to 312. It will be part of the United States Military Sealift Command.
No town government tax money will fund the trip, Madore said. The navy will reimburse Madore and Marston for their expenses. Kim Marston, who helped book the trip for both, said she was thrilled for her husband.
“I am tickled right to death because he really enjoys what he is doing and he feels very lucky to be able to do this,” Marston said. “It is quite an experience. It isn’t anything that he thinks he will ever experience again.”