Bill Packard: Aboard the USS Zumwalt in Bath

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 5:15pm

This is going to be a very special week.  Actually all weeks, days, hours are special and we all should appreciate that more. This week I will attend the christening of the USS Zumwalt, the Navy’s latest, most technologically advanced ship ever.  My kid is an officer on that ship.

You may have an anti-military mindset and I respect that very much.  This is more about being a dad than a plug for the military.

Jesse, after years of school and working locally, announced that he had joined the Navy.  Loyal followers of me have read my accounts of his exploits.  While it would be easy to accept the responsibility for his success, much of the credit goes elsewhere.  Other than a job at a video store, Jesse’s first job was at MBNA. 

The much anticipated christening of the USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) takes place April 12, sponsors Ann Zumwalt and Mouzetta Zumwalt Weathers will break champagne bottles on the ship.Principal speaker will be the Honorable Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy.

The 11 a.m. event is open to the public. All ages are welcome, and cameras will be allowed. The Construction Gate on Washington Street (across from Pleasant Street) will open for public access at 10 a.m.

Parking in the area will be extremely limited; BIW advises using one of our its Park and Ride lots.

One will be at the Taste of Maine Restaurant at 161 Main St., Woolwich. The other will be at the BIW James Building near Cooks Corner in Brunswick, at 290 Bath Road. Buses transport people from the lots to the entrance of the christening and return. Every bag, purse, backpack, etc., will be examined before entry to the yard is permitted. Limiting such baggage to expedite passage through security is advised. (Read more about the vessel at the Smithsonian magazine).

When he was 21, he got his gold pin for five years of service.  When he moved to Cleveland to go to school, he continued to work for MBNA.  When he returned to Maine and attended the University of Maine, he continued to work for MBNA.  We talked about that this weekend and how much he missed the people and the work environment there.

I served in the Navy Seabees and we were known for getting stuff done.  Their motto is “Can Do.”  That was the same motto MBNA had.  The two together have created an excellent sailor.  The officers and enlisted on the Zumwalt are not there by chance.  This is an over-the-top, high tech, nothing-ever-done-before ship. Everyone is watching everything about this ship. To get to be a plankholder on this ship is something special.  Jesse and I talked about this a lot as things were coming into place and he was able to make it happen. That’s all pretty special for a dad, but just like the late night infomercials, “THERE’S MORE!”

This ship and the others in this class are being built in Bath.  

“Bath Built is Best Built.” 

That’s not just a slogan, it’s the truth.  When Jesse chose his assignment after Officer Candidate School, he wanted a Bath-built ship.  The USS Winston S. Churchill was his choice.  Two deployments to the Middle East later, he’s more impressed with Bath Built than ever.  Now he’s sharing his experiences with what he calls “the people on the deck plates” at BIW.  The people that make these ships come to life.  He often shares his Navy experiences in presentations to  the shipbuilders at BIW.

Lots of Maine sailors have served on Bath-built ships.  Many have distinguished themselves.   Only one is my son.  Saturday is going to be very special.  My Godfather will be there with us as my guest. There will be lots of pomp.  I will cry.  Yep.  I said it.  I never cried much in my life until Jesse joined the Navy.  I have no idea what happened, but now I cry at the drop of a hat.  Good or bad, it is what it is.

I have a dear friend who asked about getting a signed cap from the Zumwalt.  When I was sharing that with Jesse today, I broke up.  To think that a hat autographed by my son would be important to someone like this was so special to me.  We’re going to get him the captain’s autograph and a ship’s coin, too.



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Bill Packard lives in Union and is the founder of  He is a speaker, author, small business coach and consultant.