LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Members of the North County Petty Officer Association volunteered for preservation work aboard the USS Iowa in Long Beach, Calif., March 15.
The USS Iowa, built in 1940, was commissioned to active service for 50 years. It represented the United States in World War II, the Korean conflict and other combat situations until its decommissioning in 1990. The ship also hosted more U.S. presidents than any other battleship.
Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Smith and other members of the North County Petty Officer Association worked to restore one of this historic warship’s sleeping areas to prepare for a program that will allow groups from within the community to spend the night aboard ship.
“What we’re doing here today is we’re preparing this berthing space for occupancy for the overnight program,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Dave Bennett, president of the North County Chief Petty Officer Association. “We saw this as an opportunity for us to come up here and give back. The Iowa is a national treasure.”
The crews of many historic battleships included both Sailors and Marines. The USS Iowa and other ships of its class have a single turret of five-inch guns traditionally manned by Marines in combat.
Bennett said he is looking forward to the opportunity to use this ship to teach service members about the history and traditions of their branches.
“This opens up opportunities for us in the future, for the Navy and the Marine Corps, because we can also come up here and do heritage training,” Bennett said. “As chief petty officers, that’s one of our charges is to be stewards of that naval history and heritage.”
The USS Iowa’s operations director, Dan Pawloski, witnessed first hand how much the volunteer work means to people who visit the ship. Veteran and former USS Iowa crewmember, Brian Moss, helped bring the ship to Long Beach. Moss’s reaction when he boarded the ship after it was relocated made a lasting impression on Pawloski.
“He personally came up, shed a tear, said ‘Dan, thank you for being a part of bringing the ship down here. You and the whole team.’ and gave a hug and then a salute. It was great to feel that and that’s why we do it,” said Pawloski.
The USS Iowa is open to the public for tours including scavenger hunts for children, information on the weapons and armor used on the ship, and insight into what life aboard the ship was like for enlisted and officers.
After 30 years working in commercial construction, Pawloski started out as a volunteer aboard the USS Iowa. Now, groups like the North County Petty Officer Association help him to keep this piece of history alive.