'Best ship in the Navy' USS Jackson commissioned in Gulfport - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

'Best ship in the Navy' USS Jackson commissioned in Gulfport

Thousands of people came to The Port of Gulfport's West Pier Saturday morning to celebrate the commissioning of the USS Jackson.  (Photo source: WLOX) Thousands of people came to The Port of Gulfport's West Pier Saturday morning to celebrate the commissioning of the USS Jackson. (Photo source: WLOX)
It's the first Navy ship to ever be christened in Gulfport, and the first ship to be named after the City of Jackson, Mississippi. (Photo source: WLOX) It's the first Navy ship to ever be christened in Gulfport, and the first ship to be named after the City of Jackson, Mississippi. (Photo source: WLOX)
With a draft of just 14 feet, the USS Jackson is designed to excel at shallow water missions. (Photo source: WLOX) With a draft of just 14 feet, the USS Jackson is designed to excel at shallow water missions. (Photo source: WLOX)
Governor Phil Bryant and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus were among the dignitaries taking part in the ceremony.  (Photo source: WLOX) Governor Phil Bryant and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus were among the dignitaries taking part in the ceremony. (Photo source: WLOX)
"They're providing incredible presence, they're providing lethality, they're providing a lot of things that the United States Navy needs today and is going to need for years in the future," Secretary Mabus told the crowd.  (Photo source: WLOX) "They're providing incredible presence, they're providing lethality, they're providing a lot of things that the United States Navy needs today and is going to need for years in the future," Secretary Mabus told the crowd.  (Photo source: WLOX)
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

Saturday was a huge day for the state of Mississippi, and especially for the Gulf Coast. A brand new littoral combat ship joined the Navy's fleet and Gulfport played host to the commissioning ceremony.

"I hereby place United States Ship Jackson in commission. May God bless and guide this warship and all who sail in it," said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, standing on a raised platform before the impressive USS Jackson.

"This certainly ranks right up there with great days that I've had," said Mabus, who helped name the ship in 2011. 

It's the first ship to bear the name of Mississippi's capital city, a place Mabus knows well from his years serving as governor. The name also held special meaning for many of those at the commissioning, including a man who will soon call the ship home. 

"For it to be named after the city, the capital of the state in which you were born is even more of a phenomenal feeling," Command Senior Chief Ken Ballard said. 

Ballard and 52 other crew members will man missions aboard the Jackson, one of the fastest, and most technologically advanced warships in the world. 

"They're providing incredible presence, they're providing lethality, they're providing a lot of things that the United States Navy needs today and is going to need for years in the future," said Mabus.

Governor Phil Bryant was thrilled to see the ship being commissioned in his state. He said the addition of the USS Jackson couldn't have come at a better time. 

"This is a dangerous world. And so, as we prepare to defend not only our men and women here on the homefront, but men and women all around the world that serve in our United States Navy, our war fighters, we have to give them the very best equipment available. This is the best ship in the United States Navy. The USS Jackson is going to serve with pride for the next 50 or 100 years," said Bryant.

The USS Jackson was built and christened at Austal USA in Mobile, and Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes is glad to see its official commissioning take place right in his front yard. 

"You have your expectations, but when you get to meet the crew and the admirals and the commanders and to have Secretary Mabus here is really telling," Hewes said. "We can't say enough about our support for the military." 

The brand new 417 foot ship weighs in at 3,100 tons. It can travel at speeds in excess of 40 knots. 

Senator Thad Cochran's daughter, Dr. Kate Cochran, was the ship's sponsor. The USS Jackson will be homeported at Naval Base San Diego.

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