KEY WEST, Fla. — Billings’ name will soon be carried around the world by a U.S. Navy warship.
The USS Billings is a new breed of ship, known for it’s speed and versatility, and it’s set to be commissioned into service Saturday in Key West, Florida.
The USS Billings Commissioning Committee has been working for almost two years now raising funds for the commissioning and also developing relationships with the sailors that will call the ship home.
With the USS Billings anchored in the waters of Truman Harbor awaiting Saturday’s commissioning, many of the ships crew members broke free for some barbecue.
“We are super excited. It’s been a long journey from all the training that we did to getting on the ship and getting the ship ready to sail all the way here to where we get to commission on Saturday,” said Lisa Penn, Fire Controlman Chief for the USS Billings.
This barbecue for the crew is just one of several events taking place before the commissioning of the Navy warship named after Montana’s largest city and the sailors who will man it are all getting more than just a taste of good food. The USS Billings Commissioning Committee also wanted them to have a taste of Billings to remember—packing up bags filled with gifts to give out.
“We really appreciate it. We are a small crew and its family oriented, so to be a part of the teamwork with Billings there again they foster the same oriented style so it’s worked very well for us, so we are like minded in that sense,” said Commander Nathan Rowan.
Some of the crew members have already had a chance to visit Billings in person and have fond memories.
“I remember the welcome, the welcoming. Everyone welcomed us with open arms,” said Elliot Jones, Chief Logistics Specialist for the ship.
The USS Billings Commissioning committee has raised around $300,000 dollars to pay for the commissioning and these events. The Phillips 66 refinery made one of the largest donations.
“The USS Billings is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the whole city, but also we have got a lot of veterans and families of veterans that work in our refinery. When we were approached by Mayor Cole it was a no brainer,” said Mark Wade of Phillips 66 Refinery.
Along with paying for large portion of the commissioning events, the USS Billings Commissioning Committee will also fund an endowment that will assist crew members in the future and allow many of them to make return visits to the Magic City.
“Right now we actually raised enough money to cover the costs of the commissioning so now everything is the ship endowment, so the things that the Captain and the crew are going to need into the future we want to be them to support them,” said Billings City Councilman Denis Pitman.