In the early haze of a Saturday morning (February 17, 2024) that felt both somber and charged, the steel colossus known as the USS John L. Canley (ESB-6) was commissioned into the US Navy’s ranks at Naval Air Station North Island.

This wasn’t your average naval ceremony; it was a potent mix of military tradition and raw, unfiltered pride, all set against the backdrop of the relentless Pacific.

With a length that rivals the skyscrapers of some small cities, this 784-foot (239-meter) leviathan of the seas was poised to redefine the game of sea-to-shore logistics, a silent giant waking up to the call of duty.

This fourth iteration of the Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) platform is more than just a ship; it’s a Swiss Army knife on the high seas.

With its sprawling flight deck, hangar, and mission deck, it’s equipped to handle anything from aviation support to command and control operations. It’s a testament to American ingenuity and a beacon of versatility in the unpredictable theater of military operations.

A Tribute to Valor: Honoring Sergeant Major John L. Canley

The USS John L. Canley isn’t just another ship in the Navy’s formidable arsenal. No, this vessel carries the name of a legend, a Vietnam War hero who embodied the kind of courage that books and movies try to capture but can hardly do justice to.

Sergeant Major John L. Canley, a man whose bravery in 1968 at the Battle of Hue City set a standard for heroism, now had his name etched on the hull of this floating fortress.

Carrying his wounded brothers through the hellscape of Hue City under a storm of enemy fire, his story earned him the Medal of Honor five decades later, making him an eternal figure of inspiration.

The commissioning drew a crowd of over 1,200 souls, from the blood relatives of Canley to the brass of the Navy, all there to witness this mammoth of maritime might come to life.

Ceremony and Tradition: The Commissioning

The ceremony itself was a spectacle of tradition and respect, punctuated by a 19-gun salute that echoed like the drums of war across the water.

The ship’s pennant was set against the sky, and the crew manned their first watch, a symbolic gesture that marked the beginning of the USS John L. Canley’s watch over the seas.

Dignitaries, including Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro and military leaders, saluted both the man and the mission represented by this ship.

The USS John L. Canley’s commissioning is more than a chapter added to the annals of naval history; it’s a vivid declaration of America’s ongoing commitment to protect, serve, and honor the legacy of its heroes.

Secretary Del Toro’s remarks hit home; this vessel is not just a machine of war but a lesson in resilience, a narrative of how history’s trials shape the steel of our nation’s soul.

“It is my firm believe that USS John L. Canley will serve as an example to everyone who serves on this ship, or passes in her wake,” said Del Toro.

Unity at Sea: Crew and Mission

Manned by a hybrid crew of military personnel and civil service mariners, the USS John L. Canley embodies the collaborative spirit of modern warfare, a floating testament to the unity required to face the challenges of today’s world.

As it embarks on its maiden voyages, this ship is not just navigating the physical oceans but sailing through the very essence of American resolve.

In its 75th year, the Military Sealift Command, with its legion of Civil Service Mariners and contract mariners, stands ready to support the joint warfighter with a dedication that’s unwavering.

The USS John L. Canley, a symbol of both a hero’s legacy and a nation’s enduring commitment to peace and security, sails forward into the unknown, a guardian of the high seas and the ideals it represents.