PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - A Navy destroyer that's been in service for 21 years is back home where it all began. The USS Ramage has returned to Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula to undergo a major upgrade.
With the sun rising, Ingalls workers gathered on the dock the USS Ramage will call home until next year. There was a sense of anticipation for shipbuilder Gerry Rucker.
"It's go time here at Ingalls. We can't wait for the ship to arrive so we can get started. We have a team already in place," Rucker said.
Many shipbuilders constructed the Ramage two decades ago. The same shipbuilders will work on this upgrade. One of them is John Armstead.
"Some 20 some years ago, I was a lot younger, but it brings back a lot of memories to be able to see a ship that I built to come back and I'm still here," Armstead recalled.
Keeping the country safe is on the minds of many, including shipbuilder Edna Finklea.
"It just makes me proud to know that I can contribute to our nation's defense by putting our hardware out there," said Finklea.
The new and improved Ramage will be an important tool in the war on terror. George Jones is the Vice President of Operations at Ingalls.
"We'll be upgrading combat systems and spaces and doing general maintenance and putting her back in tip top shape," Jones explained.
Meanwhile, on the point in Pascagoula, a welcoming crowd of about 150 people showed up, including many families with young children. They felt it was important for them to be here, according to parent Ted Inbau.
"My parents did the same for me, and my wife's parents did the same for her. To show the importance of what people are doing for our freedoms and what they have been doing for our freedoms for a long time now," said Inbau.
This shipyard now has a new mission for Ingalls President Brian Cuccias.
"We're looking forward to showing the Navy and the crew of the Ramage that we know how to put this ship back in fighting condition better than anybody else in the country," said Cuccias.
There is no doubt here that's exactly what's going to happen.
The refurbishment of the Ramage should take about nine months to complete at a cost of $20 million. Meanwhile, the ship's crew of 300 sailors will be calling Pascagoula home.