(Key West, Fla.) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester joined Navy personnel, Billings officials, sailors, Marines, and their families today for the official commissioning ceremony for the USS Billings, the first naval warship in history to be named after Montana’s largest city.
The USS Billings is the 17th littoral combat ship to be delivered to the Navy and the eighth of the Freedom variant to join the fleet. These vessels are fast, agile warships that are designed to conduct missions close to the shore such as mine, anti-submarine, and surface warfare. The USS Billings is nearly 400 feet long and travels at speeds greater than 40 knots. Its motto is “Big Sky Over Troubled Waters.”
“The USS Billings is a highly maneuverable, lethal, and adaptable force to be reckoned with,” Tester said. “It’ll represent Montana and our nation proudly in the water by defending us around the world. At a time of new global threats and challenges, these naval capabilities provide critical support to our men and women in uniform who work to keep us safe.”
As Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Tester highlighted the ship’s importance to Montana’s veteran population, which is one of the largest per capita in the country, saying: “It is my hope the USS Billings will serve as a testament to our country’s commitment to our veterans. And it’ll serve Montana, the Billings community, and this country proudly in the international waters for decades to come.”
Since he was first elected to the Senate, Tester has pushed the Navy to commission a naval vessel named after the Treasure State. In 2007, he teamed up with the Montana Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and Disabled American Veterans, in a push to successfully secure a USS Montana. As a result of Tester’s continued efforts, then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus officially announced the name of the USS Billings on June 6, 2013, in recognition of Big Sky Country’s largest city.
As the ship’s Sponsor, Tester’s wife, Sharla Tester, has helped spearhead the commissioning of the USS Billings. On July 1, 2017, as the symbolic mother of the ship, she had the honor of christening the vessel. She has also met with the crew and families of the USS Billings on multiple occasions.
Prior to the Tester’s efforts, Montana has come close on two occasions in securing a USS Montana. In 1906, a ship was christened as the USS Montana only to be renamed later. During World War II, a keel was laid for a new USS Montana, but was never built due to the end of the war.
The naval warship launched its journey on June 10th from Marinette, Wisconsin to Key West, Florida for today’s historic commissioning ceremony.