“But the weather turned out beautiful, the hurri-
cane went out to sea, the people ended up standing on
the flight deck watching the lights on the [Benjamin
Franklin] Bridge and the city, it was gorgeous,” Metzger
said. “It was wonderful.”
The second involved a reception caterer, though
here too potential disaster was averted.
“We threw a reception on the Thursday prior to the
commissioning. We had 700 people, the entire crew,
some of their families, Navy Leaguers, local business
people, and the caterer, who was going to do a Taste
of Philadelphia, called up on Sunday and said he
couldn’t do it,” Metzger said. “So I had from Sunday to
Thursday to put the thing together.
“On Monday, I called someone who was recommended and he stood up and put out the most phenomenal
meal I have ever seen. He had cheese steaks made to
order on grills on the flight deck, hoagies made up, he
had a Rita’s water ice stand, he had hot roast beef sandwiches, he had hot roast pork sandwiches with all the
extras, etc., and all of this was put together from Monday
afternoon to Thursday.
“And, to boot, we had contacted the local USO
Troupe and they sent four people down and they put on
a half-hour show for us during the reception. The crew
didn’t want to leave.”
More than 6,000 people attended the USS John B.
“We love doing commissionings, I do anyway,” said
Metzger, a retired Navy petty officer. “In my retirement, I
said I was going to support the fleet for the rest of my life
and this is a great way of doing it with the Navy League.”
That sentiment was echoed by the other commissioning committee leaders.
“Commissioning ships is the best experience I have
had as a Navy League member,” Ferguson said. “Wheth-
er I led the committee, served on the committee, or
simply attended a commissioning, I
“It is one of the most rewarding
endeavors that you will ever be
associated with,” Peracchio added.
And along with Peracchio’s recommendation for patience, flexibility and diplomacy when it comes
to commissioning planning, the
committee leaders all offered advice
based on their own experiences with
such events to Navy Leaguers looking to get involved in the future.
“Keep the committee lean, focus on fundraising,”
Metzger said. “Fundraising is the key because if you
have enough money, you can do anything. No matter
what problem comes up at the end, during the week
that the ship is in port, if you have enough money you
can fix it.”
“Select committee members based on what they can
contribute to the effort,” Ferguson said. “Skills needed
are fundraising, event planning, financial expertise,
organization and public relations. … There is a lot of
work to be done, so there is no room for bench sitters.
Reach out to recent commissioning committees to
learn from their experiences. Where possible, use a
theme from the namesake of your ship to plan events
around. Finally, think big!”
The Zumwalt commissioning leaders also suggested
getting in touch with other commissioning committees
for advice and support.
“The Navy League is such a great organization,” they
said. “When one council needs help, others consider
it an ‘all hands on deck’ event. The Commissioning
Committee also received vital lessons-learned support
from the corporate knowledge subject matter expert
Maryellen Baldwin (Hampton Roads Navy League icon).
Additional support was received from Karen and Doug
Crawford, along with retired Capt. Bobby Ferguson who
… provided superb lessons-learned support in executing all aspects of ship commissioning events.
“Start early, empower the volunteer committee members, develop a great relationship with the ship’s commanding officer … and be prepared for last-second
surprises,” the co-chairmen added. n
In order to formalize the process and develop a resource center to
assist commissioning committees, Navy League National President
Skip Witunski recently formed an ad hoc committee to examine
the Navy League’s role in commissionings.
Donna S. Murtha speaks during the commissioning of the amphibious transport
dock ship USS John P. Murtha Oct. 8 at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia. The ship
was named after her father, a former Marine, former governor of Pennsylvania
and long-time U.S. representative from the state.