The Navy will christen its newest roll-on/roll-off cargo ship USNS Benavidez at Northrop Grumman Avondale Industries in New Orleans, La., on Saturday, July 21, 2001, at 10 a.m. CDT.
The ship will honor Army Master Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez. Born Aug. 5, 1935, in Lindenau, Texas, Benavidez distinguished himself in a series of daring actions while assigned to Detachment B56, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, Republic of Vietnam.
On May 2, 1968, Benavidez (then a Staff Sgt.) voluntarily led the emergency extraction of a 12-man Special Forces reconnaissance team that met heavy enemy resistance while gathering intelligence in an area controlled and routinely patrolled by the North Vietnamese Army. During the rescue operation he physically carried wounded members to helicopters. Despite being critically wounded, he continued to lead the team and gather survivors into a defensive perimeter. He distributed water and ammunition, administered to the wounded and provided protective fire as team members were picked up. Benavidez' willingness to expose himself constantly to heavy enemy fire and his refusal to be stopped despite severe wounds, saved the lives of at least eight men.
Benavidez was first awarded the Distinguished Service Cross from Gen. William Westmoreland for his heroism. When the full story of his daring and valorous actions became known, the medal was upgraded to the Medal of Honor. Former President Ronald Reagan presented him with the military's highest medal in 1981. Retired Master Sgt. Benavidez died Nov. 29, 1998, in San Antonio, Texas.
Vice Adm. Gordon S. Holder, commander, Military Sealift Command, will deliver the principal address at the ceremony. Hilaria Benavidez, widow of the ship's namesake, will serve as ship's sponsor and, in keeping with Navy tradition, will break a bottle of champagne to formally name the ship.
The seventh in the Bob Hope class of large, medium speed, roll-on/roll-off (LMSR) sealift ships, Benavidez is a non-combatant vessel built by Northrop Grumman Avondale Industries in New Orleans. Its crew will consist of civilian mariners who work for a private company under contract to the Military Sealift Command.
The LMSR ships can load military combat and combat support equipment needed overseas and resupply necessary equipment and supplies during national crisis. The ship's seven-deck interior has a cargo carrying capacity of approximately 390,000 square feet and its roll-on/roll-off design allows it to transport helicopters, tanks and other wheeled and tracked military vehicles.
Two 110-ton single pedestal twin cranes enable the ship to load and unload cargo where shoreside infrastructure is limited or non-existent. A commercial helicopter deck enables emergency, daytime landings. The USNS Benavidez is 950 feet in length, has a beam of 106 feet, and displaces approximately 62,000 long tons. The diesel-powered ship will be able to sustain speeds up to 24 knots with an endurance range of 13,000 nautical miles.
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