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Story Number: NNS090420-21 

By Ensign Lauryn K. Dempsey, Pre-Commissioning Unit Makin Island Public Affairs
PASCAGOULA, Miss. (NNS) -- More than 900 crew members from the future USS Makin Island (LHD 8) marched aboard their ship April 16 in a historic delivery ceremony at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding (NGSB), Gulf Coast.

The crew marched in a two-company formation, the Argonaut and Nautilus, to symbolize the two submarines that delivered the Marine Raiders to Makin Island during World War II.

After almost four years as Prospective Commanding Officer of Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Makin Island (LHD 8), Capt. Robert G. Kopas officially signed the DD-form 250, granting custody of the ship to the U.S. Navy.

Conceived in 2000, the ceremony was a culmination of many years of hard work.

"Makin Island has seen three different Presidents of the United States, four Secretaries of the Navy, four Chiefs of Naval Operations and four presidents of NGSB, along with hurdles during the process," said Capt. Jeffrey Riedel, program manager, Amphibious Warfare Program.

"It's a great sense of accomplishment to finally deliver the ship," said Jeff Davis, LHD 8 ship director. "It's a great ship, and the last two years have been very trying and very difficult. We have had to work through a lot of issues: materials, manpower and natural disasters. The men and women of NGSB have done a great job completing this quality ship."

NGSB personnel are not the only ones who have had to deal with the obstacles of building a revolutionary ship. The ship's crew began reporting to Pascagoula in late 2005.

After two years of preparing and working toward Makin Island's delivery, Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) 2nd Class Nicholas Ayres brought his family along to thank them for their patience in the process.

"As I told all my junior Sailors, you know that lump you get right here (in your throat)," said Ayres.
"That's called pride and I've got a lot of pride in Makin Island. My wife and son have seen all the long hours we've worked and all the hard work we've put in, and I wanted them to be a part of history."

"With the delivery of Makin Island, the crew and I look forward with anticipation to completing the path of bringing Makin Island to the fleet," said Kopas. "We deeply appreciate the support we've received, and promise to all of you that we will sail her as she was designed, a warship ready for any tasking our nation requires, no matter where it is!"

The crew is now working and living aboard the ship, while preparing for sail-away, when Makin Island will transit around South America to her future homeport of San Diego, where she is scheduled to be commissioned on Oct. 24, 2009.

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