The U.S. Navy’s newest expeditionary mobile base vessel, the future USNS Miguel Keith (T-ESB 5), was christened in San Diego on Saturday.
USNS Miguel Keith (T-ESB 5), the Military Sealift Command’s newest ship, was christened during a ceremony at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego, Calif., on 19 October.
The event was attended by the family of the ship’s namesake as well as dignitaries such as Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Thomas Savage, Deputy Commanding General 1st Marine Expeditionary Force; Rear Adm. Thomas Wettlaufer, Commander, Military Sealift Command; Vice Adm., Ricky Williamson, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Fleet Readiness and Logistics; Bilyana Anderson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Ship’s Programs; General Walter Boomer (USMC Retired), former Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps; Capt. Brian Mershon, the ship’s civil service master; Sailors from the ships pre-commissioning unit, and employees of NASSCO.
“This ceremony marks the office start of the relationship between the men and women who will crew and sail this great ship, and the family of its namesake, Miguel Keith,” said Anderson in her remarks.
The official christening moment happened when Keith’s mother, Mrs. Eliadora Delores Keith, who serves as the ship’s sponsor, broke a bottle over the ship’s bow with the words, “For the United States, I christen this ship the Miguel Keith. May God protect all who sail on her”
The ship honors U.S. Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and posthumous Medal of Honor recipient Lance Cpl. Miguel Keith, and is the first ship to bear the name. Keith served as a machine gunner with Combined Action Platoon 132, III Marine Amphibious Force in Quang Ngai Province, Republic of Vietnam. He was severely wounded on the morning of May 8, 1970, when his platoon came under a heavy-ground attack. Despite being injured in the attack and open to hostile fire, he continued to engage the enemy with heavy machine gun fire, resulting in him killing three attackers and dispersing two remaining two enemy soldiers.
“As Marines, we try to live up to the example of those who came before us. In the case of Miguel Keith, that is impossible,” explained Savage. “This ship will be a war ship, and it is fitting that it is name after a Marine such as Miguel Keith.”
Miguel Keith is the fifth ship in the expeditionary mobile base platform build for MSC, and the third expeditionary staging base model. When activated, Miguel Keith will primarily support aviation mine countermeasure and special operations force missions. In addition to the flight deck, the ship has a hangar with two aviation operating spots capable of handling MH-53E Sea Dragon-equivalent helicopters; accommodations, work spaces, and ordnance storage for embarked force; enhanced command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence to support embarked force mission planning and execution; and reconfigurable mission deck area to store embarked force equipment to include mine sleds and rigid hull inflatable boats.
“The ESB platform will provide leadership with options on air, sea and land,” said Wettlaufer. “Miguel Keith gives us a competitive advantage in a highly competitive world.
Miguel Keith will be delivered to the MSC fleet later this year, where it will support a variety of maritime-based missions, including Special Operations Forces and Airborne Mine Counter Measures support operations, humanitarian and traditional military missions.
Closing his remarks, Boomer, ceremony’s principal speaker addressed the ship’s crew. “When the work gets tough and the days are long, let this be your battle cry. For Miguel…For Miguel!”