Don Culpepper Reports On Navy Recognition Of Ship Builders

Ship builders join sailors for a barbecue with all the trimmings. It's the Navy's way of saying a final farewell and thanks to the men and women built the U.S.S. Forrest Sherman.

"I really appreciate everything that ya'll did to bring this ship together," announces Commander Michael Van Durick from the deck of his new ship.

It's the 23rd guided missile destroyer built by Northrop Grumman, but the first one to survive a vicious attack from Mother Nature before being commissioned.

"I have to give credit to the people who built the ship," says Van Durick. "She came through the storm really well, and was able to provide a place for Northrop Grumman to reconstitute from."

The 500 foot vessel literally became a life boat for Northrop Grumman officials and crews, after Hurricane Katrina rendered much of the plant out of commission.

"We had lost all of our power in all facilities through out the shipyard," says Tommy Johnson, the General Ship Superintendent on the project. "President Mr. Phil Till and 2 Vice Presidents lost their homes. They had to live aboard ship for about 2 or 3 weeks. We also housed our sub contractors, our power company people."

An experience that Commander Michael Van Durick says brought out the best in ship builder and sailors alike.

"I'm proud of the way that they've worked with the shipyard and Sup Ship. I'm proud of the way they ramped up following the storm and the reconstitution effort that went in by them to get us to the point today that we're ready to be examined and join the fleet."

A mission they look forward to, following a mission accomplished none of them will ever forget.

"No doubt, no doubt," says Johnson. "Them and us."

by Don Culpepper