The Department of the Navy will christen USNS Soderman (T-AKR 317), its newest roll-on and roll-off strategic sealift ship on Friday, April 26, 2002, during an 8:30 p.m. PDT ceremony at National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. (NASSCO), San Diego.
The ship will be named for Medal of Honor recipient Pfc. William A. Soderman (1912-1980), a native of West Haven, Conn. Soderman was assigned to Company K, 9th Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division during World War II. On Dec. 17, 1944, Soderman defended a key road junction near Rocherath, Belgium, against superior enemy forces before being wounded. President Harry S Truman presented Soderman the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House on Oct. 12, 1945.
Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham will deliver the ceremony's principal address. Serving as ship's sponsor is Virginia Soderman, widow of the ship's namesake. Kristina Carson Fletcher, niece of the ship's namesake, will serve as matron of honor. In the time-honored Navy tradition, the sponsor will break a bottle of champagne across the bow to formally name the ship.
Soderman is the eighth ship built by NASSCO for the Strategic Sealift program. Soderman, a large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ship, will carry Army equipment, vehicles and supplies, and be strategically prepositioned near Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The non-combatant vessel will be crewed by civilian mariners and operated by the Navy's Military Sealift Command, Washington, D.C.
Soderman's roll-on and roll-off design makes her ideal for transporting helicopters, tanks and other wheeled and tracked military vehicles. Soderman will have a cargo carrying capacity exceeding 394,000 square feet. The ship is 950 feet in length, has a beam of 106 feet, and displaces approximately 63,000 tons when fully loaded. Two 32,000 horsepower gas turbine engines enable the ship to sustain speeds up to 24 knots.
For more information on large, medium-speed, roll-on and roll-off ships, visit www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/factfile/ships/ship-takr2.html .