Named for the eastern United States’ mountain range known as the Blue Ridge Mountains, the USS Blue Ridge is the third vessel of the US Navy’s fleet to bear this name. Currently in active service (as of 2012), the USS Blue Ridge serves as the lead ship of the two Blue Ridge-class of command ships (in addition to Mount Whitney) as well as the command ship of the US Seventh Fleet (since 1979). Often referred to by one of her several nicknames—“Building 19,” “The Blue Cruiser,” or “Large Cabin Cruiser”—the USS Blue Ridge is guided by the motto “Finest in the Fleet.”
Ordered by the US Navy on December 31, 1964, the USS Blue Ridge was constructed by the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard (Pennsylvania). Her keel was laid down on February 27, 1967 with her launch taking place just shy of two years later on January 4, 1969. Commissioned on November 14, 1970 with Vice Admiral Kent J. Carroll leading her complement of 52 officers and 790 enlisted men, the USS Blue Ridge set sail on February 11, 1971 en route to her first homeport of San Diego, California.
Propelled by two boilers and one geared turbine, the 636.5 foot USS Blue Ridge is capable of speeds of up to 23 knots and displaces 19,609 tons (full). Her methods of defense include four 25 mm Bushmaster cannons, two Phalanx CIWS (radar-guided Gatling guns mounted on swiveling bases), eight .50 caliber machine guns, in addition to Mark 36 Super Rapid Bloom Off-board Chaff (SRBOC) system launchers. With regard to aircraft on board, she is currently equipped with two Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk helicopters.
Command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence—these are the primary functions of the USS Blue Ridge as it stands to serve the commander and staff of the US Seventh Fleet. Considered to be the most capable command ship to have ever been constructed in the history of the US Navy, the USS Blue Ridge’s superior command and control system and advanced communications system are products of four decades of the Navy’s research and experience in the realm of control and coordination. Blue Ridge’s capabilities of accessing data worldwide from both military and civilian sources earn her recognition as a global command unit with unparalleled resources and unlimited potential.
Homeported in San Diego, California at the onset of her career, the USS Blue Ridge was continuously deployed to the Western Pacific from 1972 through 1979. Serving as the Flagship, Commander Amphibious Force, Seventh Fleet, Blue Ridge maintained a strong presence in Vietnam where she supported operations relative to US interests until the conclusion of this conflict in 1975. Her remarkable service in Vietnam was acknowledged by her receipt of the following awards: the Combat Action Ribbon, the Battle Effectiveness (Battle “E”) Award, the second star on the Vietnam Service Medal, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, and the Navy Unit Commendation.
October of 1979 marked the USS Blue Ridge’s transfer to a new homeport at the Yokosuka Naval Base in Yokosuka, Japan. This site continues to serve as her base of operations as of 2012.
As the USS Blue Ridge’s career progressed, her duties continued to include operational deployments focused in the areas of the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean with intermittent periods of routine maintenance and training schedules.
Further highlights of Blue Ridge’s time in service include her role as flagship for the Commander, United States Naval Forces Central Command (COMUSNAVCENT) in support of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm (August 1990-April 1991) and her participation in humanitarian relief efforts in the aftermath of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami at which time she transported supplies from Singapore to Japan.
The USS Blue Ridge is anticipated to remain on active duty status until the year 2039.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19)
At the time the keel of the USS Blue Ridge was laid down (1967), annual asbestos use in the United States was estimated to be approximately 1,500 million pounds. The US shipbuilding industry was a primary consumer of this vast quantity of asbestos present on the industrial scene with the US Navy actually mandating the use of this naturally-occurring mineral in over 300 products employed in the construction and maintenance of her ships. Considered to be an unparalleled resource in terms of its ability to resist fire and withstand high temperatures, asbestos was incorporated into nearly every facet of US Navy vessels.
The expectation that the USS Blue Ridge will remain on active duty for an additional 27 years indicates that for another 27 years inhabitants of this ship will continue to be exposed to the ill-warranted effects of asbestos. While restrictions on asbestos use have been implemented and somewhat enforced since the 1980s, these implications have little bearing on the reality that an asbestos contaminated environment created many years ago is still a functioning site of daily operations for many individuals currently serving our country. The dangers of human exposure to asbestos fibers lie in the deterioration of asbestos products due to age and the disturbance of asbestos products by means of human interference during maintenance procedures.
Asbestos - currently classified as a known human carcinogen by several US government agencies - poses its greatest threat to human health and safety at the point when its airborne fibers enter the human body by means of ingestion or inhalation. Easily able to attach to the inner linings (membranes) of the heart, lungs, and abdominal cavity, asbestos fibers have the strength and durability to remain in these areas for extended periods of time allowing them to contribute to the development of scarring, inflammation, and potential cell mutation.
Asbestos-related diseases—asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma cancer - are the root cause of nearly 10,000 deaths each year in the United States. These diseases, which are known for their extended latency periods (20-50 years), often do not present with easily identifiable symptoms until a point in time when treatment options are limited and life expectancy is at a minimum.
Current mortality trends with regard to asbestos exposure in conjunction with the identification of asbestos as a cancer-causing agent should be reasons enough for the eradication of all potential sites of asbestos exposure—whether they are currently functioning as operational platforms or not.
If you were a victim of asbestos exposure due to your service aboard a vessel such as the USS Blue Ridge and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, our free information packet could be of help to you. It contains detailed information about the medical and legal resources available to victims of asbestos exposure. Please contact us through the form on this page and we will send one out to your right away.Sources
Wikipedia–USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19)
NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive