By Douglas Hoffacker
MONTEZUMA COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– The Four Corners are a long way from their ship, but crew members of the U.S. Navy’s USS Mesa Verde made a trip this week to their namesake national park.
No, they didn’t get there by boat. Seven USS Mesa Verde sailors flew in to Colorado for the visit, the second ever from ship personnel.
The group met with Mesa Verde National Park staff, toured the famous Cliff Palace and Balcony House cliff dwellings and helped with maintenance work on the Petroglyph Trail. They also had a special opportunity to meet tribal officials of Mesa Verde’s 24 affiliated tribes in a reception on Tuesday night. The crewmembers who visited are rated as the top of their particular class for the year.
Command Master Chief Graham Luby presented Park Superintendent Cliff Spencer with a US flag that was flown over the ship last week.
The crew also met with former senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell and his wife Linda Campbell, and Peter Pino, former Governor of Zia Pueblo. They were all on hand at the ship’s dedication in 2005 at the Mississippi shipyard where it was built.
“Experiencing the dwellings and the landscape was remarkable, but what truly struck us was the spirit of the people. Meeting with the people who call Mesa Verde home opened our eyes to the park, not just being history, but being part of their present and future,” Lieutenant Andrew Brod said. “Interacting and working alongside the park staff gave us a renewed appreciation for their work and a vision for what our country does to protect our natural resources.”
The ship’s commanding officer, Captain Max Clark, in a news release, called the trip another way for the crew to serve our country.
“All across the globe, while conducting operations to defend our national interests and freedoms, we’ve proudly carried the name and spirit of Mesa Verde National Park with us, says Clark. “So for us to return to the place of our ship’s namesake, serve the local communities and strengthen our ties with those that work and live here, this truly brings our mission full circle.”
The USS Mesa Verde is an amphibious warfare ship, also known as an amphibious transport dock. This type of ship is generally used to transport troops into a war zone by sea, using amphibious landing crafts and helicopters. It has a crew of 360 sailors and three Marines. Its homeport is Norfolk, Vir.