Crowley’s Veterans Plaza gets showpiece: anchor from decommissioned Navy ship

03/28/2014 5:11 PM

03/28/2014 5:13 PM

An 11-ton anchor salvaged from a deactivated Navy ship arrived Friday to become the centerpiece for the city’s Veterans Plaza.

“We asked for military equipment from the Navy and the Army, and the Navy came through first,” Councilman Johnny Shotwell said.

The Crowley Veterans Plaza Committee raised $3,500 to cover costs of hauling the 13-foot-tall, 8.5-foot-wide anchor from Brownsville and getting it installed in the $262,000 park between the library and the police station, Shotwell said.

The anchor had been slated to arrive the previous Friday, but transportation problems delayed it a week.

Veterans Plaza started as an idea from council members who are themselves military veterans, Shotwell said. “We’ve lost four residents since 9-11 in various conflicts,” he said. “We started a wall in the library, and it expanded from there.”

Money to build the plaza came from donations and the city’s natural gas well royalties, Shotwell said. In-kind donations helped with the anchor.

A Crowley High School graduate who owns a trucking company brought the anchor to town for the cost of fuel, Shotwell said. A Burleson crane company donated services to set the anchor in place.

Crowley has no connection with the ship. Indeed, the Navy picked the anchor merely because it was available when the city asked for any significant military equipment that’s suitable for display in a park, Shotwell said.

The city would like to add military artifacts as the park expands, but Shotwell said that may be difficult.

“We applied to the Air Force and verbally contacted the Marines,” Shotwell said. “The Marines said there was slim to no chance, so we didn’t bother filling out the paperwork. We still haven’t heard from the Air Force. The Army sends me an email once in a while saying, ‘You’re still on the list, but we don’t have anything yet.’ ”

The USS Shasta’s hull was laid in 1969, in Pascagoula, Miss. She was launched in 1971 and commissioned as AE-33 on Feb. 4, 1972.

AE-33 joined the 7th Fleet in the Western Pacific on Jan. 4, 1973, in time to serve in the Vietnam War. According to navsource.org, her motto was “We Serve Anytime Anywhere,” and she was rigged to deliver virtually any ammunition a warship needed without pulling into port.

In a process called “un-rep” for “underway replenishment,” loads of ammunition were transferred either on platforms riding on cables that stretched between the ships or by helicopters in a maneuver called “vert-rep” for “vertical replenishment.”

The Shasta was in the Persian Gulf for the Iranian hostage crisis and for Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

The second ammunition ship the Navy named for Mount Shasta — an extinct volcano in California — she was 564 feet long, 81 feet wide and had a 27-foot draft. Her operating complement was 28 officers and 375 enlisted service members.

When she belonged to the Navy, she carried four twin 3-inch/.50-caliber dual-purpose gun mounts and a pair of MH60S Seahawk helicopters.

Shasta was decommissioned in 1997 and placed in the Military Sealift Command, becoming the USNS Shasta, T-AE-33. She was deactivated April 7, 2011, and was sent to Brownsville to be scrapped.

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