Locals attend commissioning of USS Mississippi

By Ellen Graves The Choctaw Plaindealer

Skip and Jennifer Mize of Ackerman attended the commissioning ceremony of the USS Mississippi in Pascagoula on June 2. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus was the principal speaker at the ceremony.

The USS Misssissippi is a 7,800 ton submarine that will be used for covert intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, special warfare operations, and direct support of forces ashore. The submarine has the ability to launch land attack missiles, mines and torpedoes.

Skip Mize served 12 years in the Navy and is a member of the United States Submarine Veterans Incorporated. He was able to request an invitation to the commissioning ceremony through the USSVI.

The Mizes said they were “very impressed” with the ceremony and spoke of the intense security measures that were in place since top governmental officials like Gov. Phil Bryant and Secretary of the Navy Mabus were in attendance.

“Guys with machine guns were everywhere,” said Jennifer Mize.

The commissioning ceremony marks a ship’s entry into active service in the United States Navy. The crew is instructed to “bring this ship to life” and the crew runs down the pier and into the submarine to raise the mast.

As Secretary of the Navy, Ackerman native Ray Mabus’s duties include being responsible for an annual budget of $150 billion and almost 900,000 people. Also, Mabus oversees the construction, outfitting, and repair of naval ships and is responsible for the formulation and implementation of policies and programs that are consistent with the national security policies and objectives established by the President and Secretary of Defense.

After the ceremony, the Mizes stood in the long line to speak to Mabus. Once one of his personal aides realized the Mizes were from Ackerman, they were escorted to the front of the line to see Mabus. For the next ten minutes, the Mizes talked with Mabus about Skip’s service in the Navy, the coal mine and about the construction of the new hospital in Ackerman.

“I was duly intimidated but not in a bad way,” said Jennifer Mize. “Mabus had an air of respect. It was neat!”

The Mizes went on to say that Mabus was very pleasant and gracious.

As an ex-submariner and veteran of the First Gulf War and Desert Storm, the commissioning ceremony was a special event for Skip. He described life on a submarine as “very cramped with little privacy.”

“While you’re in the submarine, you don’t really know you are. Well I mean you know but it’s kinda like flying a plane. You know you are moving but you don’t really feel it,” said Skip Mize.

When Skip had to leave for duty, Jennifer would say her goodbyes on the pier. “It was gut wrenching,” said Jennifer because she knew anything could happen once Skip was in the submarine during wartime.

The Mizes were grateful to have the opportunity to attend such a prestigious commissioning ceremony.

“We were proud to be from Mississippi and people from all over the country came to see the commissioning,” said the Mizes.