A Navy missile cruiser, the USS Lake Champlain, docked at Kodiak’s Pier 2 over the weekend. It’s the third ship to bear the name Lake Champlain, and the second naval vessel to visit the community this month during this year’s Northern Edge military training exercise. The first was the USS Harpers Ferry on May 4.
Lt. Cmdr. Austin Fleming, the ship’s combat systems officer, said Kodiak was a point of interest for the exercise because of its infrastructure.
“We’re looking at the cruise ship terminals, where they have the ports that can support taking onboard a Navy ship and towns with a size where 350 or so sailors rolling in won’t completely overwhelm the town,” he said.
More than 10,000 troops are deployed across Alaska for Northern Edge between Eielson Air Force Base, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, and various other locations.
Four Navy warships are also patrolling and practicing firing around the Gulf of Alaska. Most of the time they are at sea but all four, including the destroyers USS Momsen and USS Zumwalt, are visiting major ports around the state.
Fleming said part of the Lake Champlain’s port call involves restocking supplies.
“We try to pull back in about once a week and just stay topped off,” he said. “(It) keeps the fruit and vegetables fresh, keeps gas in the tank, (and) keeps us ready if we do get called somewhere else.”
Lt. j.g. Mallorie Miller, the main propulsion officer on board, said she’s excited to visit Alaska but it wasn’t always smooth sailing to get here.
“This last week in the Gulf of Alaska was a little bit rough for some of us,” she laughed. “Some people don’t have their sea legs yet so it was getting used to that. We have our heavy weather cable that came in handy quite a bit – we were taking in some heavy seas and you kinda get used to it a little bit, but with the storms that came in this last week, it was a doozy.”
About two-thirds of the ship’s crew were able to leave the ship at a time to explore the town, with the rest remaining on board to keep the ship running while docked.
Kodiak is the Lake Champlain’s second port visit in Alaska, after a stop in Seward. After it leaves the island, the crew will be at sea in the Gulf of Alaska before heading south.