PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - It was a proud yet emotional goodbye Friday for many Ingalls employees who spent years building the America. Crowds gathered along the dock as the captain spoke his final words before setting sail on the America's maiden voyage.
"We bid farewell," America Commanding Officer Captain Robert Hall said over the intercom. "Thank you for this incredible war ship. Thank you for the exceptional, world renown hospitality over the past few years. We set sail in service our country. God Bless you and God Bless America."
With that the ropes were cast off and the ship, lined with sailors manning the rails in their Navy whites, pushed away from the dock. "America the Beautiful" played loudly and the crowd cheered.
"It is an emotional time to see it finished and leave from here to go out and defend our country. It is a great thing," Pascagoula Metal Trades Council President Michael Crawley said.
Shipbuilders at Ingalls spent the past five years building the America. The ship is 844 feet long and 106 feet wide, and can hold more than 1,200 crew members and 1,871 troops. It can also carry marine aircraft.
"It was just an awesome accomplishment," Ingalls President Bill Cuccias said. "It's really a proud moment to see the shipbuilders of Ingalls produce such a fine warship as America, and to actually see it sail away was kind of a culmination of all the efforts. It's just a great sense of accomplishment; I'm proud of all our shipbuilders."
The America and its crew will make several stops in South America before arriving in San Francisco for the commissioning on October 11. After officially being named the USS America, the ship will then head to its homeport of San Diego.
"It is big, because this goes into the fleet to defend our nation, defend me, you and everybody else," Crawley said. "It's something great to know that the workers here have produced this ship to go out and protect our country."
As the America sailed off into the distance, employees were back to work on the next LHA 6, the Tripoli.
"We just have to make sure we provide the best value, the highest quality ship and the America is a testament that we did that," Crawley said. "We will go even further for the Tripoli."