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Lawmakers push for Navy ship to be named for Chattanooga victims

Key Tennessee and Georgia lawmakers have asked Navy leadership to name a naval vessel USS Chattanooga in honor of five service members killed in in shootings there last year.

The March 18 letter was sent to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and signed by Tennessee Republican Sens. senators Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Bob Corker ,R-Tenn.), and Reps. representatives Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., and Tom Graves, R-Ga.). The Tennessee General Assembly and Chattanooga City Council passed separate resolutions in support of the effort.

"In the wake of this tragedy, we believe that it is appropriate for the U.S. Navy to honor the legacy of those who lost their lives," the lawmakers, who serve on various defense and budget committees, wrote.  letter said.

On July 16, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez on July 16, 2015, opened fire on a military recruiting station and Navy Reserve center and Marine Corps Operational Support Center in the East Tennessee city. Five were killed in the attack: Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire "Skip" Wells, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith. Since Because the attacker was found to be inspired by propaganda from a foreign terrorist organization, the service members were determined to be eligible for awarded the Purple Heart on December 16, 2015.

Getting a ship named is easier said than done though. Hundreds of requests are made each year, while only a handful of hulls are produced. A host of organizations vie for the honor, including . These include cities,  and states, those seeking to honor a national figure or military hero, and veteran groups seeking to resurrect the name of a ship from a bygone era.

"The name will be added to a list that the Ssecretary reviews each time he has a ship to name," said Capt. Patrick McNally, a the secretary’s spokesman for Mabus. "We get a great many requests and there are only a certain number of ships that are named after cities."

Marine First Sargeant John Coyne announces the names of the fallen Marines and Sailor during Roll Call at a memorial service Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The service is for four Marines and a sailor killed as a result of attacks on a military recruiting station and a Naval operations center July 16 in Chattanooga. (AP Photo/Mark Gilliland)
Marine First Sargeant John Coyne announces the names of the fallen Marines and Sailor during Roll Call at a memorial service Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The service is for four Marines and a sailor killed as a result of attacks on a military recruiting station and a Naval operations center July 16 in Chattanooga. (AP Photo/Mark Gilliland)

Marine 1st Sgt. John Coyne announces the names of the fallen Marines and sailor during roll call at an Aug. 15, 2015, memorial service in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Photo Credit: Mark Gilliland/AP

Congress can, through provisions in public law, express its desire that a ship bear a certain name, but the naming of a ship rests with the service secretary alone. He typically relies on recommendations from various sources, including to include the chief of naval operations, commandant of the Marine Corps, Naval Heritage and History Command, lawmakers, service members, and citizens.

"It is noted on the list that the request has congressional support," McNally said. The secretary "is always grateful that communities advocate for their city to have a ship named in honor. The Navy enjoys great support from namesake cities and states, and it helps connect the Navy to the American public."

If a ship was to bear the city's name, it would most likely be a littoral combat ship or San Antonio-class amphibious ship. A March 23 analysis of Navy ship names by the Congressional Research Service reported that 24 LCSs have been named to date. The first two — Freedom and Independence — bear the name of each respective variant.

The only subsequent LCS not named for a city is LCS 10, which honors was named for former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was badly wounded in a 2011 shooting on Feb. 10, 2012. Similarly, the San Antonio class amphibs are named for major cities and communities, to include the victims of the include those attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Chattanooga The city has an outside chance of seeing its name on the side of an expeditionary fast transport, previously called the joint high speed vessel, which is named for small cities and is increasingly popular with small-scale Marine forces.

Aircraft carriers are generally named for presidents — 10. Ten of the past 16 were named for presidents. The next two aircraft carriers will be named John F. Kennedy and Enterprise, respectively. In the active fleet, only the Nimitz, Carl Vinson, and John C. Stennis are not named for presidents.

Virginia-class attack submarines are named for states, with two exceptions: the John Warner (SSN-785) and Admiral Hyman G. Rickover (SSN-795). Destroyers are named for deceased sea service members of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, including secretaries of the Navy. Amphibious assault ships are typically named for famous important Marine Corps battles and famous Navy ships not named for battles.

John Lewis-class oilers, previously known as TAO(X)s, are named for those who've people who fought for civil and rights and human rights, according to the CRS report. The Lewis and Clark-class cargo and ammunition ships were named for famous American explorers, trailblazers and pioneers. Expeditionary transport docks and expeditionary sea bases, formerly known as Mobile Landing Platforms and Afloat Forward Staging Bases, are named for famous names or places of historical significance to U.S. Marines.

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