ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Seventy-five Northeast Florida sailors are back home with their families just in time for the holidays.
The newly commissioned USS Sioux City was welcomed back to Naval Station Mayport on Wednesday morning.
The U.S. Navy commissioned USS Sioux City, or LCS 11 -- the nation’s sixth Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship, or LCS -- at the United States Naval Academy on Saturday. The milestone placed the ship, built by Lockheed Martin, into active service.
The men and women aboard the Sioux City have been gone since June and were grateful to return in time for Thanksgiving with their loved ones.
Dozens of families hugged and welcomed their heroes back to Mayport after the ship docked around 9 a.m. -- ahead of schedule.
Melissa King and her 11-month-old son (pictured) attended the commissioning ceremony in Annapolis, so she saw her husband, Second Class Petty Office Matthew King, just days ago.
"Him being gone has really taught me how to be a mom," Melissa King said. "I had to do it pretty much do it by myself. Now having him home, I'm going to sleep in! I'm just really happy to have him home."
GSE Senior Chief Thomas Daniel met his newborn son for the second time.
"It's very special," Daniel said. "I've been looking forward to it for a couple of months. It's very special."
Cmdr. James Malone couldn't be prouder of the newly commissioned ship.
"We made history. It's absolutely phenomenal to be part of that," Malone said. "And to be called the captain of these magnificent sailors is an honor beyond belief."
According to the Navy, the Sioux City is designed to complete close to shore missions, meaning the Freedom-variant LCS is designed to integrate modular weapons, as well as manned and unmanned vehicles, to deliver critical war-fighting capability to the fleet in mine countermeasures, anti-surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare.
“LCS is our most effective fleet asset to counter asymmetric small-craft threats,” said Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations. “This ship and the ships like her are going to complicate any adversary’s operating picture. You’re going to need to keep track of Sioux City when she’s at sea, because if you don’t, she’s going to make you pay for that.”
There are seven ships in various stages of production and testing at Fincantieri Marinette Marine, where the Freedom-variant LCS is built. The next Freedom-variant in the class is LCS 13, the future USS Wichita, slated for commissioning in Mayport, Florida, in January. LCS 19 is scheduled for christening on Dec. 15.