SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco Fleet Week 2012 opened the weekend with one of the week’s premier event, the Parade of Ships, Oct. 6.
Nine sea vessels belonging to the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, San Francisco Fire Department and the Canadian Navy entered the San Francisco Bay underneath the Golden Gate Bridge in a prestigious and ceremonial event – tradition to San Francisco Fleet Week.
San Francisco Fire Dept.’s Fireboat “Phoenix” led the parade blasting streams of water from the boat’s three water cannons. A fleet of ships proceeded behind the Phoenix with the U.S. Navy’s USS Spruance and the USS Preble, the Coast Guard’s USCGC Sherman, Canada’s HMCS Algonquin, HMCS Edmonton, and HCS Brandon, San Francisco’s liberty ship SS Jeremiah O’Brien and the Coast Guards retired ship USCGC Morris. The USS Makin Island, an amphibious assault ship that holds the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, already berthed at San Francisco’s Pier 32 on Oct. 3.
U.S. Marine, Coast Guard, Navy, Canadian Navy and Bay Area agencies were all represented by their distinguished leaders at the St. Francis Yacht Club in the ceremonial event. As ships floated through the bay with their crew “manning the rails,” the nation’s leaders in uniform and city Mayor Edwin M. Lee rendered a salute to every vessel.
Maj. Gen. Melvin G. Spiese, the commanding general of 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade, said being able to showcase the parade of ships puts the fleet right in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, the best venue for the weekend.
“There’s no better backdrop for the fleet than to sail in the bay,” said Spiese, a native of Chicago.
Fleet Week’s mission is to focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster response preparedness, and at the same time, give the Bay Area community a chance to meet the nation’s military members.
Retired Marine Maj. Gen. James Myatt, president and CEO of the Marines Memorial in San Francisco, said the city wants to capture the expertise the military has developed in providing humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
“We’re going to have a catastrophic earthquake. We know we’re going to have it. We just don’t know when,” Myatt said. “The only way a timely relief could be provided is if it comes from the sea. That’s why Naval services are key in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief planning in the Bay Area.”
Spiese said Fleet Week is a chance to work on the Corps’ versatility and adaptability. “That’s what Marines and sailors are known for.”
“We put a force to sea anticipating it can do just about anything as a situation develops,” Spiese said. “Working through various types of scenarios increases our ability to work through complex challenges and problems we could be tasked with.”
San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said San Francisco Fleet Week 2012 is the third year local agencies such as the emergency services and law enforcement has teamed up with the military to train in humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations.
“We built a strong relationship three years ago and we’re strengthening that relationship today,” Hayes-White said. “Building those relations, strengthening them and cross training one another is greatly appreciated by us and we know the military has our backs in the time of a large scale emergency here.”
The parade of ships ceremony at the St. Francis Yacht Club concluded with a reception and rolled in to Fleet Week’s air show over the bay.