The U.S. Navy officer who until last month commanded the USS Arlington says the relationship between the ship and its namesake community is strong.
“It’s wonderful having that connection – it energizes the crew. We talk about the community that supports us,” U.S. Navy Capt. Christopher “Chowdah” Hill said during remarks earlier this month at the Arlington Historical Society’s annual banquet, held at Washington Golf & Country Club.
The USS Arlington – a landing-platform dock whose primary mission is to transport U.S. Marines to world hot-spots – became the third Navy ship to bear the name “Arlington” when it was commissioned in 2013. Like its sister ships USS New York and USS Somerset, it was named for communities most impacted by the 9/11 terror attacks of 2001.
The historical society’s Sept. 9 dinner focused on that seminal incident, and while many in the room had been in the local community 20 years ago, many of the crew of the USS Arlington are far too young to know it first-hand.
Noting that many on a Navy ship’s crew are 18, 19 or 20 years old, “they don’t have any mental recollection of what happened on that day,” Hill said. “Some weren’t born.”
The impact on Arlington County during 9/11, and the community’s response to the incident, are detailed in a “tribute room” on the ship, which was funded by local contributions. Capt. Hill, who in August rotated out as commanding officer and is awaiting his next sea assignment, singled out retired Arlington police official Kevin Reardon as among those who have kept ties between the ship and the community alive.
While his tenure as commanding officer was relatively brief – less than 18 months – Hill said he will cherish the memories.
“There’s something special about this ship,” he said. “My goal was to take a good ship and make it better.”