USA: Navy Names Lewis and Clark Class Ship for Civil Rights Activist Cesar Chavez
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced May 18 the selection of the USNS Cesar Chavez as the 14th Lewis and Clark-class of dry cargo/ammunition ships.
Continuing the Lewis and Clark-class tradition of honoring legendary pioneers and explorers, the Navy’s newest underway replenishment ship honors the memory of Mexican-American civil rights activist Cesar Chavez. Chavez served in the Navy from 1944-1946 after which he became a leader in the American Labor Movement and a civil rights activist who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers.
“Cesar Chavez inspired young Americans to do what is right and what is necessary to protect our freedoms and our country,” said Mabus. “The Cesar Chavez will sail hundreds of thousands of miles and will bring support and assistance to thousands upon thousands of people. His example will live on in this great ship.”
Designated T-AKE 14, Cesar Chavez is being built by General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego. Eleven of the T-AKEs are slated to serve as combat logistics force (CLF) ships, and three are slated to be part of the maritime prepositioning force (MPF). Cesar Chavez will serve the CLF missions, helping the Navy maintain a worldwide forward presence by delivering ammunition, food, fuel and other dry cargo to U.S. and allied ships at sea.
“This proud ship will honor one American. But the story of my father’s family is a lot like the story of so many other immigrants, especially Latinos,” said Paul F. Chavez, son of the ship’s namesake and president of Cesar Chavez Foundation. “They came to America seeking a better life. In so doing, they brought to their new land a fervent patriotism that has been demonstrated over and over again throughout the storied history of our nation. My dad was like many Latinos and African Americans from his generation who returned home in the years following World War II determined to see that the country for which they sacrificed lived up to its promise as a beacon to the nations of equality and freedom.”
Cesar Chavez will be designated as a United States Naval Ship (USNS), and operated by the Navy’s Military Sealift Command with a crew of civil service mariners (129 in CLF mode, 75 in MPF mode). For CLF missions, the T-AKEs’ crews include a small detachment of sailors.
Like her sister dry cargo/ammunition ships, T-AKE 14 is designed to operate independently for extended periods at sea and can carry two helicopters and their crews. The ship is 689 feet in length, has a waterline beam of 105 feet, displaces approximately 41,000 tons, and is capable of reaching a speed of 20 knots.
Source: navy, May 20, 2011;