Stephen Rutkowski helped commission USS Bainbridge 4.29.09

Written by David Green.

A story in last week’s Observer highlighted a Fayette connection to the USS Bainbridge, the U.S. Navy destroyer involved in patrolling for pirates near Somalia. Melina Gardner of Fayette is a crew member.

There’s also a Morenci connection, although a step removed from the current status of the Bainbridge.

Small world, says Navy officer Stephen Rutkowski of Morenci.

“I was a member of the commissioning crew,” he said. “I was on the ship from June 2004 through June 2007.”

The commissioning crew, he explained, is responsible for putting the ship into service after its construction. Rutkowski describes the effort as massive test of management skills.

“We start from scratch to make sure all the pieces for the ship operate and function,” he said. “Then we take her out of the shipyard and work out the bugs.”

The Bainbridge was commissioned in Florida for a couple months after leaving Bath, Maine, where it was built. After that comes the job of training the crew to operate the many facets of the guided missile destroyer that’s powered by gas turbine engines.

“This is why most crew members remain for several years after commissioning. Those crew members that are attached to the ship at the time of commission are called ‘plank owners’. There are still several plank owners onboard today.”

Rutkowski said he’s been back on board several times since the commissioning and is still in contact with the ship.

He added that area resident Joe Terrell was in Florida during the commissioning and went onboard for a three-hour tour. He later returned for the ceremony when the ship went into service.

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    Water Fun—Carter Seitz and Colson Walter take a fast trip along a plastic sliding strip while water from a sprinkler provides the lubrication. The boys took a break from tie-dyeing last week at Morenci’s Summer Recreation Program to cool off in the water.
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    BIKE-A-THON—Children in Morenci’s Summer Recreation Program brought their bikes last Tuesday to participate in a bike-a-thon. Riders await the start of the event at the elementary school before being led on a course through town by organizer Leonie Leahy.
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    on your mark, get set, drum!—Drew Joughin (black shirt), Maddox Joughin and Kaleea Braun took the front row last week when Angela Rettle and assistants led the Stair District Library Summer Reading Program kids in a session of cardio drumming. The sports and healthy living theme continued yesterday with a Mini Jamboree at Lake Hudson State Park arranged by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Next week’s program features the Flying Aces Frisbee show.
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    ART PARK—A design created by Poggemeyer Design Group shows a “pocket art park” in the green space south of the State Line Observer building. The proposal includes a 12-foot sculpture based on a design created by Morenci sixth grade student Klara Wesley through a school and library collaboration. A wooden band shell is located at the back of the lot. The Observer wall would be covered with a synthetic stucco material. City council members are considering ways to fund the estimated $125,000 project and perhaps tackling construction one step at a time.
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    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks

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