For decades, thousands of sailors have traveled to Bath Iron Works Shipyard in Maine to participate in the final construction and fitting-out of a new ship. When the ships depart so do they. You’re not alone if you wondered how these servicemen and women viewed their time in Maine. Inside Your World national investigative correspondent Mark Hyman spent time with several crewmembers of the USS Carl M Levin (DDG-120) due to leave Bath Iron Works early next month.
"So, Bath, Maine is known as the city of ships, and one of the things you can ask any BIW worker that 'Bath built is best built.' All ships are built to the same standard, but the fit and finish is really where you see some of those differences," said Commander Kelly Craft.
Craft, who is the ship’s commanding officer, is convinced there is greater attention to detail found in a Bath Iron Works ship than in those from other shipyards. Craft's ship, the USS Carl M Levin, is the newest of the Arleigh Burke class of guided-missile destroyers. More than half of the 70 Burke class destroyers in service have been built in Bath. Craft remarked that work pride he sees in this ship is not a trait of just the shipyard workers.
He told us, "Everybody knows that Texas has a lot of pride. I would say Mainers probably have even more pride than Texans when it comes to being from Maine and experiencing everything that Maine has to offer."
Northern Michigan native Sydney Allgaier was prepared for the winters when she arrived two years ago. "Actually, the weather's very similar," she commented. But she noted that some of her shipmates were in for a surprise. 'Yeah, we have got a lot of kids from California, Florida, that this has been a real shock for them."
First Class Petty Officer Reed Larson spent his off-time contributing to the community. Larson said, "There's SeaLyon Farms up north in Alna, Maine. And I spend majority of my free time volunteering out there. And then I spend time hunting on the farm out there." After the ship leaves Maine for good, Larson will leave behind the new friends he made while in Bath. "I did enjoy the people I've spent time with out here, and a lot of the locals. I've definitely made a support unit out here of friends and stuff from the area. So that will be definitely one of the downsides of leaving Maine."
When we spoke with the crew we heard the theme of Maine friendliness over and over. "I think you've got that Midwest feel, for New England, that people are just genuinely nice and happy that you're here. When you say, 'Oh, I'm in the Navy,' it's a positive thing," Allgaier reported.
Originally from Guilford, Maine, Mark Melia is the ship’s command master chief. For this assignment, he was coming home. And after his tour of duty is complete he plans to retire here. Correspondent Mark Hyman observed, "You're a Mainer through and through, aren't you?" "Yes, you could say that," he replied with a chuckle.
Melia’s final duty assignment is a great way to finish his career. But first, he will serve another two years in a new homeport. When the ship leaves Bath it will trade one vacationland for another. Craft shared with us, "Once we sail away, we'll head south. We'll go through the Panama Canal and out to Hawaii."
The USS Carl M Levin, named for the state of Michigan’s longest serving US senator, will be commissioned in Baltimore on June 24th. 5,000 guests are expected to attend the ceremony.