MOBILE, Ala. - History set sail recently as the USNS Spearhead, the Navy's first Joint High Speed Vessel, was christened during a ceremony at the shipbuilders' facility in Mobile, Ala.
The JHSV is a new class of ship, designed for rapid intra-theater transport of troops and military equipment. Commonly referred to as the "workhorse of the nation," it was conceived as a joint endeavor among the services.
"The Joint High Speed Vessel Spearhead was developed to be the first Army vessel of its type but recently it was decided that all JHSVs would be operated by the Navy," explained Col. Stephen E. Farmen, the Army's Chief of Transportation. "The relationship between the Army and Navy is a great example of teamwork. Our participation in the christening shows the continuing solidarity between our two services."
As an example of that solidarity, the Navy honored the ship's original U.S. Army chosen name and sponsor.
Retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kenneth Wahlman is the ship's sponsor. He joined the Army in 1966 and was appointed a Marine Engineer Warrant Officer in 1974. During his career, he served aboard nearly every class of vessel in the Army's inventory and contributed to the professional development of the warrant officer community, establishing curriculum and marine certification processes that continue to guide Army mariners today. After he retired from active duty, he continued serving the nation by becoming a civil servant and the Honorary Warrant Officer of the Regiment for the Army Transportation Corps. In July 2004, in recognition of his significant contributions, he was inducted into the corps' Hall of Fame. His wife, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Linda M. Wahlman was the matron of honor for the ceremony and is currently deployed to Afghanistan.
The Wahlman's legacy of service continues with their daughter. During the christening ceremony, Catherine, a Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, served as maid of honor and broke the traditional bottle of champagne across the bow.
According to information provided by the shipbuilder, Austal, spearhead is defined as the leading force in a military drive or the driving element in an action or endeavor. Through the ship's name and sponsor, the USNS Spearhead celebrates the fundamental role of military transport and the contributions of transportation mariners throughout the ages.
The Spearhead's coat of arms has the Army Transportation Corps colors incorporated in it to symbolize the synergy between the two services. "It also symbolizes our belief in this program and what this new capability can do to enhance joint operations in the future," Farmen said.
With the christening ceremony, the Spearhead's legacy of service begins. The ship has the ability to support operations of all sorts, supporting the warfighter in logistics and humanitarian assistance missions, disaster relief, as well as special and contingency operations.
The 338-foot-long aluminum catamaran is designed to be fast, flexible and maneuverable, even in shallow waters, allowing it to transport troops and equipment quickly within a theater of operations. The vessel will be operated, navigated and maintained by civil service mariners in the Military Sealift Command.
The vessel is capable of transporting 600 tons of military troops, vehicles, supplies and equipment 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots (or 40 mph) and can operate in shallow-draft, austere ports and waterways. The mission bay has over 20,000 square feet of space and could carry more than 280 cars. It has airline style seating for 312 passengers and has a flight deck that can support heavy-lift helicopters and be used to support day and night flight operations.
"We look to continue to partner with our Navy service brethren to connect the sea-land bridge and continue to build synergy in both our maritime and expeditionary intermodal operations requirements," Farmen said. "In fact, the Army's world-class Maritime Training Center of Excellence at Joint Base Langley-Eustis continues to serve as the training center for JHSV crew members."
Following acceptance trials, delivery to the Navy and operations testing, Spearhead will be based in little Creek, Va., and is expected to begin conducting missions for the Navy in fiscal year 2013.
Coat of Arms
Shield - dark blue and gold are the colors traditionally associated with the Navy, representing the sea and excellence. The USNS Spearhead is the first ship in the new class, as illustrated by the spearhead, signifying the military readiness for the missions assigned. The lightning bolts symbolize speed. Brick red is the color traditionally associated with the U.S. Army Transportation Corps. The spearhead on the wavy pile suggests the prow of a ship on the water and, combined with the lightning bolts, alludes the JHSV being one of the fastest ships in the fleet.
Supporters - the trident represents Navy and maritime authority and, placed behind the shield implies the Naval command's support for each uniformed service associated with the project. The crossed Army sword and Marine Corps Mameluke symbolize the cooperation and teamwork of each armed force required to accomplish the mission.
Motto - The motto, "Ducere Classem" translated to "To Lead The Fleet" further emphasizes the USNS Spearhead as the first of her class and one of the fastest ships in the arsenal. The black and gold colors of the scroll are emblematic of the Army and Special Operations.