The U.S. Navy’s newest combat ship, the USS Gabrielle Giffords, is docked in Galveston right now ahead of being commissioned on Saturday.
It’s happening there because Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, used to live right up the road near NASA.
In nearly three decades serving in the Navy, Commander Keith Woodley has never worked on anything like the USS Gabrielle Giffords, a littoral combat ship.
“Think of a hybrid. That is what this ship is. It can do three different warfare areas, by simply switching out modules,” says Woodley.
The ship is also unique in that it’s named after a living person: Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona Congresswoman who survived being shot back in 2011.
“We have to make sure we live up to her strength,” Woodley says. “We want to make sure we can project that what we try to take that this over the horizon to make sure we honor her in that way.”
The crew took KHOU 11 on a tour all over the ship on Thursday, including up to the bridge, which we aren’t allowed to show you.
We went down to the mess hall on the main deck and peeked inside one of the engine rooms. The gun deck up top will soon house a missile system with a 12-nautical mile range.
On the other end of the ship, the flight deck is the size of two NBA basketball courts and can fit two running helicopters at the same time.
That efficiency extends to the ship’s 70-person crew.
“My sailors have to be more skilled because they tend to do more than just the job that they’re normally paid for,” says Woodley. “Everybody has to do double duty, basically.”
That crew right now is enjoying some Texas hospitality before heading to its home port in San Diego for final tests and training.
“The city has been outstanding to my sailors,” Woodley said of Galveston.
The ship, as all Navy vessels do, has a motto. The USS Gabrielle Giffords’ is “I am ready,” which also appears on the former Congresswoman’s family crest.