BILLINGS – The USS Billings will welcome aboard the first crew members on Aug. 3 and they’ll be greeted with a special Montana-made reminder of the city the ship is named after.
The first crew on a U.S. Navy ship are called plank owners. It’s a title that’s not officially recognized by the Navy but is issued by crew members of the ship.
The Billings companies were tasked with creating a unique plaque commemorating the first crew.
“We saw this as an opportunity to be of service to Billings and to the United States and to the Navy in dedication of this ship, that’s named after this city,” said Mark Sevier Dovetail Designs president.
When it came to the shape of the plaque, the choice was an easy one.
“They wanted to have a plank or plaque dedicated to this and so we immediately went to the shape of Montana,” Sevier said. “We tried different designs. We tried old barn wood. That didn’t work. Now we’re cutting these into maple.”
Sevier added, that the change of material happened because the barn wood just didn’t look all that good.
The two companies were tasked to make 145 plaques within months, making them a reality.
First, the plaques are mocked up in a computer-assisted design program. Then it’s off to the CNC router to cut out the shape of Montana, and a space for the USS Billings commemorative coin.
The plaques are then taken to Engraveables Custom Laser, where the rest of the design is cut out. This includes the designation of the ship, the commissioning date, the keel laying date, the launching date, and every sailor’s name.
Engraveables owner Dennis Crowder has worked on other projects for the military.
“I like to help out in different communities,” Crowder said. “It gives me a warm fuzzy. A few years ago I did one for Columbus. We did stainless steel plates. Major expensive, but major rewards. It was for the soldiers in Stillwater County. It’s like a job well done, but there’s an addition to it because other people are going to see it and say the same thing.”
After the plaques are done being engraved, they’re back to Dovetail for sanding, clear coat, and glaze.
From start to finish, these plaques were made with the heart and soul of the magic city.
“To be a part of an effort is to be connected to this community, Sevier said. “It is to be connected to this ship. And it is to be connected to the US Navy. So by producing this we are being connected to all of these elements.”
The USS Billings Commissioning Committee is a local nonprofit group that is responsible for paying all commissioning related expenses, such as events, receptions, and gifts.
If you would like to support the Commissioning Committee, click here.
-Mitch Lagge reporting for MTN News