KEY WEST, Fla. — They are putting the final touches on the USS Billings rehearsing for Saturday’s commissioning ceremony.
Montana U.S. Senator Jon Tester will be the principal speaker.
"I think it’s important because we rank among the top if not the top of the people who serve in the military per capita. We have second highest per capita of veterans. We have a population that believes that we very much need to protect our country and we do that by serving in the military and I thought it was important that Montana gets recognized for that and Billings gets recognized for that," said Tester.
MTN News also had a chance to go on board the U.S.S. Billings and take a little tour.
"Welcome to the AMZ. The AMZ is the airborne mission zone. Our ship can hold one MH-60 Romeo and unmanned aerial vehicles and this is where they will be housed when they are not on the flight deck. We’ll head down to the galley. Welcome to the galley. This is where the enlisted officers will eat. We have three meals a day. We have a team of about five or six cooks and they will prepare every single meal including breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We have chief’s mess right back here. That’s where the E7 and above will eat. And we have a nice shot of Montana in the Chief’s mess. And then officers will eat in the ward room. It typicaly doesn’t look this fancy, but we are having a lunch today so it’s all decked out with super nice stuff. What’s for lunch? Chicken and waffles," said Ltjg. Erin Morrison, USS Billings Weapons Officer.
"Then we have another street sign from Montana from Billings from Central Avenue. So this is central control station—this is where our engineers work. And this is Lt. Goldstein. She’s the main propulsion assistant on board the USS Billings. So you only need one person here. Typically we put our RCO on the bridge so that he has direct comms with the officer of the deck. You will see this console on the bridge. It looks exactly like this except for the chair. The guys really like that chair up there. This is where the XO lives, his stateroom and office is right here. We used to call this XO’s p-way and then we got Grand Avenue signs but now we typically call this area Grand Avenue," she added.
"Welcome to the pilot house. This is where we drive the ship. We’ll typically have two people on watch. The officer of the deck will sit on the right seat and the junior officer will sit on the left seat. Then we will have the engineering officer ROC back here controlling the entire plant. The officer of the deck can drive a lot of ways. You can drive autopilot and you can drive a via tiller. It’s really smart so it can drive itself and it drives better than I do. So this is where the commanding officer Nate Rowan works. This is where we will give him any administrative items or stuff like that. And his stateroom where he lives is right back there. This is where we will put gifts donated to us by the commissioning committee. We are going to deck it out over the next couple days," Morrison said.
"We’ll have a sundry of different things that will go in here. Fireman’s hats, police department hat, badges, Billings Mustangs batting helmet and baseball bats, just all kinds of things from the city of Billings that will be on display in here permanently," said Ron Spence, USS Billings Main Propulsion Assistant.
Morrison added "We have another street sign King Avenue West, but this area we typically call officer’s p-way. So this is where I live and the other nine officers live. So we are going to head down to the WMZ which is the waterborne mission zone. And we just turned this into like a quasi gym. Once we get our mine sweeping stuff we will put it down here. We have two of these. This is recon two and recon one is on the other side of this and then this is where we would launch a small boat aft of this."
There were about 2,000 tickets available for the commissioning ceremony and we're told that those have all been given out.