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Story Number: NNS090616-11

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin L. Webb, Pre-Commissioning Unit Makin Island Public Affairs

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (NNS)
-- More than 10,000 Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding (NGSB), Gulf Coast employees and their families came aboard the Navy's newest amphibious assault ship, Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Makin Island (LHD 8) for Family Day June 13.

Sailors were standing by to allow hundreds of people at a time to come aboard for self-guided tours of the last Wasp-Class landing helicopter dock ship to be constructed. Makin Island was the highlight of this Family Day event, which according to NGSB administrators was the first event of this magnitude in nearly a decade.

"What a great turn out, said Irwin F. Edenzon, vice president and general manager of NGSB. "We haven't done one of these since the nineties, and I think it's been overdue."

Hundreds of Makin Island Sailors were involved in the event, which allowed visitors to see the ship's medical facilities, mess decks, command information center, bridge, flight deck and other areas around the ship.

"I know Northrop Grumman gave out a lot of passes, and we're very happy with the way that the tours are going," said Cmdr. Paul Berthelotte, Makin Island operations officer.

"It's a vital part, not only do you get to show the shipyard personnel what their finished product is, but it gives us, the crew, a chance to show what the last three and half to four years have gone in to. We are showing them that we're ready to take what they've given us and take it to the next step, which is combat readiness and support afloat."

In addition to the ship tour, NGSB had a tent set up near the shipyard's administrative buildings where more than 20 departments had booths manned by employees representing each step in the shipbuilding process.

"The primary purpose of Family Day is to let our shipbuilders bring their families to see what they do every day," added Edenzon. "They don't get the opportunity to see how hard they work every day, but they can see what kind of tools they use and the kind of facilities they work in.

Also, thanks to the cooperation of the Navy, many of these people are having the opportunity to see the product and meet the folks who go in harm's way after the ship leaves here. For a lot of these folks it's a once in a lifetime opportunity, and that's fantastic."

The Makin Island crew is now working and living aboard the ship while preparing for sail-away when they will deploy around South America to their future homeport of San Diego. Makin Island is scheduled to be commissioned Oct. 24 in San Diego.

For more news from PCU Makin Island, visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd8/.
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