WAVY’s Navy Ship Salute is a feature on WAVY News 10 Today. Each month, in partnership with the U.S. Navy, WAVY-TV 10 will profile a different ship based at the world’s largest Navy base: Naval Station Norfolk. The series aims to better introduce our viewers to some of the largest floating taxpayer assets there are, as well as life aboard a U.S. Navy ship.
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — The USS Cole is a Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer that was first commissioned in 1996. Built at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi, it is named in honor of Marine Sgt. Darrell S. Cole, a machine gunner who was killed in action at the Battle of Iwo Jima, Japan, on Feb. 19, 1945, during World War II.
USS Cole is 505 feet long and has roughly 300 sailors with her on deployment. Like many of her sister destroyers she can accommodate two LAMPS MK III MH-60 B/R helicopters with Penguin/Hellfire missiles and MK 46/MK 50 torpedoes.
“Determined warrior,” is the the ships motto, currently fitting as the ship undergoes maintenance at East Coast Repair & Fabrication shipyard in Newport News.
Capt. Tim Clark, who himself was raised in Virginia Beach, said a lot of time people forget the USS Cole is still a functioning warship.
“This is not a memorial,” Clark said. “This ship is a beacon of American resolve.”
Many know the vessel because of what happened Oct. 12, 2000.
It was on that day when 17 sailors on the USS Cole were killed in a terror attack. The ship was refueling in Port of Aden, Yemen when suicide bombers in a boat came alongside the ship and caused an explosion creating a 40-by-60 foot hole on the port side of the ship according to the Navy. Aside from the 17 sailors, nearly 40 more were injured.
Clark said it accordioned much of the ship and sailors had to fight fires and flooding for days to keep the ship afloat.
The attack was attributed to al Qaeda.
Sailors aboard have constant reminders of the ultimate sacrifice crewmembers before them made.
On the wall of the mess deck, several cased flags hang on the wall. Each flew at a different time on the ship throughout the ordeal.
“Our first flag here is the flag that was flying at the time of the attack,” CMC Karyn Sigurdsson said. You can see it is still soiled. It was remaining flying until the last of the sailors was recovered in the days following the attack.”
While Oct. 12 is a solemn day for the crew of USS Cole, Oct. 13 brings some celebration, marking the birthday of the U.S. Navy.
Each year there is a theme.
“This year, the Navy’s theme is 248 years of power, presence and protection,” OS1 Charles Mayer said.
Traditionally all ships have cake to mark the occasion, but sailors serving on USS Cole have their own way of cutting the cake.
“We have the oldest member of the USS Cole and the youngest member of Cole cutting the cake to represent the diversity of the ages of sailors who serve,” FCA2 Casandra Barnes, said.