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By Petty Officer 2nd Class Vance Hand, Commander, Littoral Combat Ship Squadron ONE
Canberra departed its homeport of Naval Base San Diego to conduct the first U.S. Navy ceremonial commissioning in Australia on June 13, visiting American Samoa and the Pacific Island Nation of Fiji prior to its arrival in Sydney for commissioning. Canberra commissioned at the Royal Australian Navy’s Fleet Base East in Sydney, July 22.
“Canberra’s transit to and from Sydney afforded the crew time to connect with other Indo-Pacific allies, partners, and friends,” said Capt. Marc Crawford, commodore of Littoral Combat Ship Squadron ONE. “We are excited to welcome the ship and her crews back to San Diego, ready to support forward-presence, maritime security, sea control and deterrence missions around the globe.”
Canberra was the first U.S. warship commissioned in an allied country, as well as the first foreign military entity granted Freedom of Entry to a foreign city in Australia. Granting Freedom of Entry is an honor bestowed by a municipality upon a valued member of the community, or upon a visiting celebrity or dignitary.
After arrival, Sailors from USS Canberra participated in sporting events, shared meals, and exchanged ship tours with the crew of HMAS Canberra. The crew also participated in community relations events to include a beach cleanup with the Taronga Zoo.
"This historic commissioning strengthened the camaraderie between the U.S. and Australia and also the crews of HMAS Canberra and USS Canberra as they both took part, side by side, in the ceremony," said Cmdr. Will Ashley, Canberra Blue's commanding officer. "The cities of Sydney and Canberra welcomed us with open arms increasing the connectedness we share amongst our two nations. It was truly a once in lifetime experience."
While underway, Canberra sailed over 14,000 nautical miles with a crew compiled of Canberra’s Blue and Gold crews.
In the blue/gold concept, two crews of approximately 70 Sailors alternate to man the ship. This is designed to give the off-hull crew dedicated time to rest, retrain and recertify before its next on-hull period. The ability to integrate Sailors from both crews reflects the ship’s professionalism and adaptability to accomplish the assigned mission.
"I am incredibly humbled to be a part of this crew. Both Blue and Gold crews worked seamlessly together and embraced our ‘CAN DO!’ spirit," said Command Senior Chief Adam Walker, Canberra's senior enlisted leader. "Their performance and hard work during a challenging transit made this a success. We enjoyed our time in Australia, but we are very excited to return home to our family and friends with fond memories of our mates down under. "
Canberra is the second U.S. Navy ship named for Australia’s capital. The first, a Baltimore-class heavy cruiser, was renamed from Pittsburgh to Canberra on October 16, 1942, and was commissioned on October 14, 1943. It was named in honor of the Australian heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra, which was lost at the Battle of Savo Island in World War II.
Homeported in San Diego as a part of Littoral Combat Ship Squadron ONE, USS Canberra is a fast, optimally-manned, mission-tailored surface combatant that operates in near-shore and open-ocean environments, winning against 21st-century coastal threats. LCS like USS Canberra integrate with joint, combined, manned and unmanned teams to support forward presence, maritime security, sea control, and deterrence missions around the globe.