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Volunteers soughts to help with activities leading up to commissioning ceremony in Portland on April 21.

COURTESY USS PORTLAND COMMISSIONING COMMITTEE - The USS Portland in the Panama Canal on Tuesday, Jan. 9.The USS Portland squeezed through the Panama Canal on Tuesday on the way to its home port of San Diego and commissioning ceremony in Portland on April 21.

Transiting the canal was challenging. It is 106 feet wide. The ship, a San Antonio class amphibious landing dock, is 105 feet wide.

"Passing through the Panama Canal is an exercise in tolerances" says Gary Piercy, chair of the Portland-based Committee for the Commissioning of the USS Portland.

The passage to San Diego will give the crew ample time to continue familiarizing themselves with the USS Portland and her systems. The US Navy reported on Jan. 10 that the ship has been selected by the Office of Naval Research to test a laser gun that is considered a next-generation follow-on to the Laser Weapon System (LaWS) that was tested for three years in the Middle East.

The USS Portland also had the honor of being selected as the U.S. 3rd Fleet's flagship for this year's Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) military exercises.

The USS Portland is the first US Navy ship to be named solely for Portland, Oregon. It is scheduled to arrive at the Port of Portland, where the commissioning ceremony will be held, on April 21. The ceremony is free and open to the public, but tickets must be obtained in advance at the committee's website at www.ussportlandlpd27.org.

The committee is also looking for volunteers to help with the ceremony and activities leading up to it. Contact information is on the website.

The USS Portland was launched on February 13, 2016. It it 684 feet long, and 105 feet wide, the USS Portland displaces 25,000 tons, and will carry 500 to 800 marines on board. In addition to transporting marines, the ship is designed for emergency first-response situations, and in aiding disaster recovery efforts. Other San Antonio class ships were used in an offshore support role after Hurricane Harvey in Houston (USS San Antonio), and after Hurricane Irma in Miami (USS New York). Even the Portland's motto speaks to the importance of this role: "First Responders: Brave and Determined"

To read a previous story on the USS Portland, go to tinyurl.com/y8x6gc2r

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