The USS Momsen arrived at the Homer Deep Water Dock on May 3, ahead of the Northern Edge exercises scheduled to take place this month in the Gulf of Alaska.
The ship is homeported at a small naval base in Everett, Washington. It was originally scheduled to arrive May 1 but experienced slight delays on travel and ended up with less than 48 hours expected in port.
The average age of a crew member is 22, “so a very young crew,” U.S. Navy Cmdr. Ryan Downing told the Homer News. “But, they’re professional and love what they do.”
Northern Edge is a joint military training exercise with the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps held in the Gulf of Alaska and elsewhere in the state. The goal of the event is to prepare sailors for deployment by training in realistic environments, according to information provided by the Navy.
Thousands of U.S. service members, five ships and more than 150 aircraft are scheduled to participate in the 2023 training, which will run for approximately two weeks, according to an Alaska Department of Fish and Game press release.
The Momsen offered four public tours on May 4 to about 25 people at a time on a first-come, first-served basis. The last one was scheduled at 6 p.m. but there was enough public interest remaining at the start of the final tour that they offered one more to round out the evening.
The Homer News joined the 6 p.m. tour and spent more than an hour viewing various parts of the ship including storage space, two helicopter landing pads (the ship only carries helicopters when deployed), dining area and wheelhouse. Tours were led by ship crew who responded to questions about how the ship operates, how far offshore it runs, what positions are assigned and more.
While the visit was an opportunity for the community to tour a Navy vessel, it also offered crew members a chance to experience Alaska.
“Most of our 350 crew has never been to Alaska before and they are really excited to interact with the community and take in the views. The views are amazing,” Downing said. “Aside from that, we’re here to eat as much food as the town can offer.”
Homer’s Phil Needham and approximately 40 local volunteers coordinated an afternoon halibut barbecue with music and storytelling for the sailors.
Needham said the welcoming event was supported by community donations.
“We just reached out and gathered up from folks in the community. The Legion made a bunch of coleslaw. The Anchor Point Legion provided beverages,” he said. “We’re just happy to be able to greet the Navy here.”