PORT HUENEME : New Destroyer Getting Waves of Attention

Rubbing and scrubbing, painting and polishing, Navy sailors are working furiously against the clock to get the new destroyer Stethem in shipshape for its official commissioning Saturday into the U.S. Navy.

"They are making sure everything sparkles," said Linda Wadley, a spokeswoman for the Naval Construction Battalion Center, Port Hueneme.

The ship-commissioning ceremony will be the first for the 53-year-old Seabee base. The Port Hueneme base was selected for the honor because the Aegis guided-missile destroyer is named after a Seabee diver, Robert Dean Stethem, who was killed during a terrorist hijacking of a TWA airliner to Beirut in 1985.

Red-white-and-blue bunting is now draped around the $900-million warship, which will be homeported in San Diego. Workers have spread a sea of white folding chairs on the adjacent wharf. Base officials are planning for 5,000 people to attend, including Stethem's family.

"We are getting everything in tiptop shape for the ceremony and the ship tours," Wadley said.

The public is invited to tour the Stethem on Sunday, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

To visit the ship, members of the public are asked to enter the fenced Seabee base through its Pleasant Valley Gate. The gate is at the end of Pleasant Valley Road, near its intersection with Ventura Road. Gate guards will provide directions to the ship.

For more information, call 982-2057.

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