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Release No: 576-06
June 20, 2006

Navy to Christen USNS Sacagawea

The Navy will christen the USNS Sacagawea, the newest ship in the Lewis and Clark class of underway replenishment ships on Saturday, June 24, 2006, during a 7:15 p.m. PDT launching at National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, San Diego, Calif.

The name Sacagawea will honor the Lemhi Shoshone woman who acted as guide and interpreter for Lewis and Clark on their expedition into the Northwest region of the United States.  This well documented expedition of two years and 6,000 miles opened routes to vast new territories throughout the American West which allowed passage for American settlers and traders.  Legendary for her perseverance and resourcefulness, Sacagawea (1788-1812) provided invaluable assistance to the explorers through her knowledge of topography and edible roots and plants previously unknown to European-Americans.

She single-handedly saved the expedition's records after they had fallen into the Missouri River when their canoe capsized.  If she had not rescued these journals, much of the record of the first year of the expedition would have been lost to history.  This act demonstrated her dedication to the journey's success.  Two harbor tugs, YT 241 (1942) and YT 326 (1942-1945), have been named Sacagawea.

Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, will deliver the ceremony’s principal address.  Lucy Honena Diaz and Rachael Lynne Ariwite, familial descendants of Sacagawea, will serve as co-sponsors of the ship.  The launching ceremony will be highlighted in the time-honored Navy tradition when each sponsor breaks a bottle of champagne across the bow to formally christen the ship “Sacagawea.”  Amy Mossett, a Mandan-Hidatsa member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota, will serve as honorary matron of honor.

The USNS Sacagawea is the second ship in the Navy’s new 11-ship T-AKE Class.   T-AKE is a combat logistics force vessel intended to replace the current capability of the T-AE 26 Kilauea-Class ammunition ships, T-AFS 1 Mars-Class combat stores ships and, when operating with T-AO 187 Henry J. Kaiser-Class oiler ships, the AOE 1 Sacramento-Class fast combat support ships.  The USNS Sacagawea is 689 feet in length, has an overall beam of 105 feet, a navigational draft of 30 feet, and displaces approximately 42,000 tons.  Powered by a single-shaft diesel-electric propulsion system, the ship can reach a speed of 20 knots.

Designed to operate independently for extended periods at sea while providing replenishment services to U.S., NATO and allied ships, the USNS Sacagawea will directly contribute to the ability of the Navy to maintain a worldwide forward presence.  Ships such as the Sacagawea provide logistic lift from sources of supply either in port or at sea from specially equipped merchant ships.  She will transfer cargo (ammunition, food, limited quantities of fuel, repair parts, ship store items, and expendable supplies and material) to ships and other naval warfare forces at sea.

As part of the Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force, the ship will be designated USNS.  The term stands for United States Naval Ship.  Unlike their United States Ship (USS) counterparts, USNS vessels are manned primarily by civilian crews working for the U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command, Washington, D.C.

Additional information about this class of ship is available on line at http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=4400&tid=500&ct=4.

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