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June 2006 Join Now

Adoptions Are Popular Way To Show Support, Gain Interest

By PETER ATKINSON, Deputy Editor

One of the most popular means for Navy League councils to show their support for sea service men and women, drum up interest in the organization and spur membership is through “adopting” ships, units and military facilities.

According to the most recent Navy League statistics, as of late 2005 councils had adopted a total of 218 U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine ships and 190 Navy, Marine Corps, Merchant Marine and Coast Guard facilities or units — which run the gamut from bases and stations to reserve centers, schools, recruiting districts, medical centers and others.

  • And the numbers continue to grow. In some recent examples:
  • The Lake Washington, Wash., Council adopted the new attack submarine USS Jimmy Carter and its Undersea Research and Development detachment in November 2005.
  • The Gig Harbor, Wash., Council officially adopted the Coast Guard Station Seattle during a crew muster at the station Jan. 11.
  • The Broward County, Fla., Council adopted Coast Guard Air Station Miami and the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan in consecutive weeks in February.
  • The Palm Springs, Calif., Council adopted the carrier USS Nimitz Feb. 25 in San Diego.

Still others are in the works. The St. Thomas/St. John, V.I., Council, has asked to adopt the guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt. Caribbean/Latin America Region President Thomas W. Hoffman, a member of the St. Thomas/St. John Council board of directors and a Navy League National director, is pursuing the adoption on behalf of the council.

He said he hopes to formalize an agreement with Cmdr. Richard L. Clemmons Jr., the ship’s commander, at, or around the time of, the Navy League Convention, which is in St. Thomas in July.

“He has been very positive about it and the council is really excited because we don’t get much Navy or Coast Guard presence here,” Hoffman said. “This is the first-ever adoption for us. I know the community will be excited too if we can get the ship down here for R&R visits.”

Roosevelt is homeported in Mayport, Fla., about a three-day cruise from St. Thomas, and already has been adopted by the Mayport Council — several other ships, notably the carrier USS Ronald Reagan, have been adopted by more than one council. Reagan has been adopted by the Santa Barbara, Calif., and Aurora, Ill., councils

The Piedmont Triad, N.C., Council is about at the same point in its effort to adopt the guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke, which also has been adopted by the Fort Lauderdale Council. Milton Price, the council’s past president, has been communicating with ship officials about the adoption, and they plan to discuss the matter further during the ship’s homeport stop in Norfolk, Va., which was to begin in early May.

Because the council is located well inland from the Atlantic coast, it has focused primarily on maintaining a strong legislative presence and working extensively with local Navy and Marine Reserve Officer Training Corps units, Price said.

However, he said, “If we can get a ship to adopt, it’s four-and-a-half hours to Norfolk. When we go to recognize the sailor of the quarter or sailor of the year, we can take a few people along.

“If they can get an up-close-and-personal look at who and what we’re supporting, it can get them really interested in the Navy and the Navy League. And they can help spread the word, and help get other people involved.”

Some councils are especially active when it comes to adopting ships and units. The National Capital Council in Washington, D.C., has adopted 10 ships and 12 sea service units. The Oakland Council has adopted four ships and seven units. Metropolitan Detroit has adopted two ships and nine units and Orange County, Calif., has adopted two ships and eight units.

But for councils like Piedmont Triad or St. Thomas/St. John that are relatively new to the process, Navy League headquarters offers “The Council Guide for Ship Adoption” that covers the entire spectrum of ship and unit adoptions.

The guide offers a variety of reasons why councils should adopt a ship or unit of the sea services, including:

  • Supporting the men and women in uniform who serve on the adopted ship or in the adopted unit;
  • Providing awards and financial support for the crew and their families;
  • Providing opportunities for tours and ship rides to current council members and individual and business candidates for membership;
  • Gaining public support and media attention for the council and the adopted ship or unit.

The guide also spells out what is involved in the adoption process and what steps need to be taken to make it happen. Briefly, they are:

  • Select a ship, cutter or unit to approach for adoption. Any ship or unit can be selected, regardless of location, but close geographical proximity is preferable.
  • Communicate with the commanding officer and ask if the ship, cutter or unit would like to be adopted by your council.
  • Discuss mutual support with the commanding officer — what will your council do for the adopted ship and what does your council request from the command?
  • Prepare an adoption agreement and schedule the adoption ceremony. Invite community and business leaders to participate, as well as your Navy League field leaders.
  • Order an adoption certificate from the Navy League Membership Department.

From there it’s a matter of hosting the ceremony for the ship or unit to make the relationship official, and then following through with whatever support arrangement has been made with the “adoptee.”

The Gig Harbor Council did not waste any time after it adopted Coast Guard Station Seattle in January.

Following the adoption ceremony the council’s Coast Guard Coordinator Kenneth Weller presented its “Sailor of the Year” honor to BM3 Troy Dostart, along with a plaque and $100 savings bond.

A month later, 16 Coast Guard personnel arrived with three boats at Gig Harbor for the presentation of the “Sailor of the Quarter” award. The council treated the crew to lunch, and a plaque and $100 savings bond were presented to BM2 Kurtis Mees, according to Weller. A second “Sailor of the Quarter” was presented to BM2 Brett Kime at Station Seattle in April.

While proximity or a strong local connection are typical reasons for a council’s choice in adopting a ship or unit, any number of reasons can apply. Price’s interest in having the Piedmont Triad Council adopt the Arleigh Burke stems partly from an old college roommate whose son served aboard the ship.

For councils determined to adopt a ship, the Navy maintains a list of vessels that have expressed an interest in adoption [see the list on page 80]. A number of new Navy and Coast Guard ships also will be commissioned into their respective fleets during the next year [see box above].

However, if adopting a ship is not an option, just about any sea service unit or agency is fair game: The Stockton, Calif., Council adopted the Office of Naval Research; the Metropolitan Detroit Council adopted the Mariners Church in Detroit, the Marine Corps Embassy Detachment in Mexico City was adopted by the Mexico City Women’s Council, and the National Capital Council adopted the Marine Corps Band and Honor Guard. The first step is to ask.

“The Council Guide for Ship Adoption” is available online at

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