Mayport welcomes new ships
2 new crews call Jacksonville home; more to come
It's another big day at Naval Station Mayport, as two ships will call the First Coast home. This is just the first round of several new ships coming to Mayport over the next few years.
The USS Shamal has been in Mayport since August. Naval Station Mayport will welcome two patrol ships for homeporting on Thursday, as the USS Zephyr and the USS Tornado are moving from Virginia to Jacksonville.
At the beginning of December, the USS New York will arrive.
IMAGES: USS Tornado and Zephyr
"These ships are very agile very nimble very responsive and they're able to do a wide range of missions from search and rescue to special operations insertion to just basically maritime patrol," said executive officer at Naval Station Mayport, Cmdr. Pat Pickard.
Pickard says this move underscores the base's key role in our country's national security.
"It means the national leaderships continued commitment to Naval Station Mayport and the understanding of our strategic importance," said Pickard.
All three coastal patrol boats bring about 75 sailors. About half of them have families and of those, about a third with children, and all of these people now calling northeast Florida home.
"These ships, all of them small, bring a little bit of an economic boom to the local area because the industrial base that works on ships will do maintenance on them. You'll have families that will be out in the local community both working, shopping, you'll have children in school," said Pickard.
As we see with deployment homecomings, Thursday is a celebration of the addition of new ships and new crews to Naval Station Mayport.
"Mayport tends to have a tradition that when ships pull in either coming back from deployment or changing home ports, the other ships that are already here will be sounding their horns. It's a celebration on the pier there will be a greeting part made up of the staff that the ships will report to, destroyer squadron 14 as well as my boss captain Wes McCall the commanding officer of the Naval Station," said Pickard.
Jacksonville officials have been trying to get a nuclear carrier homeported at Mayport since the John F. Kennedy was decommissioned in 2007. The best timetable for that now appears to be 2019. In the meantime, Mayport is in line for more smaller Navy ships.
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