Named for a Naval Aviation Pioneer, This Ship Was Launched on a Somber Anniversary

September 11, 2010

The dry cargo vessel USNS (United States Naval Ship) Washington Chambers was christened and launched at the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) shipyard in San Diego. NASSCO, a division of General Dynamics, built USNS Washington Chambers for the Navy’s Military Sealift Command. The original crew for the ship included 129 civil service mariners and 11 Navy sailors. (Non-commissioned, primarily civilian-manned vessels under the Military Sealift Command, which oversees the Navy’s transport ships, have names that begin with USNS.)

Loretta Penn christens the ship.

Nearly 1,000 people attended the Saturday morning ceremony for USNS Washington Chambers. Loretta Penn, the wife of former Assistant Navy Secretary (Installation and Environment) and Acting Navy Secretary B.J. Penn, christened the ship by smashing a bottle of champagne against the bow.

Captain Michael Flannigan, the civil service master for USNS Washington Chambers, took time during the ceremony to highlight the day’s somber anniversary. “This is a monumental day,” he said to those in attendance.  “We remember the 9/11 attacks and this great ship.”

Washington Irving Chambers.

The ship was named after Captain Washington Irving Chambers (1856-1934), who played a key role in the development of the Navy’s aviation program. “Washington Chambers gave us a legacy of hard work and perseverance,” proclaimed Rear Admiral Richard J. Hanlon, commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic, during his own remarks at the ceremony. “Today, we honor him with a namesake that was not only built with his example at its forefront but a ship that will serve the Navy with the same example by which he served.”

After undergoing a series of tests and sea trials, USNS Washington Chambers was formally delivered to the Military Sealift Command in February 2011. The ship’s mission involves delivering ammunition, food, fuel, repair parts, and potable water to a variety of naval ships.

For more information on USNS Washington Chambers, please check out

Additional information on the launch ceremony for the ship is available at

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