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About PRECOM: A Quick Reference Guide to PRECOM Facts and Terms
Ship Precommissioning Terms and Events”
     Keel Laying: This is the formal recognition of the start of a ship抯 construction. In earlier times it was the 搇aying down of the central or main timber making up the backbone of a vessel. Today, fabrication of the ship may begin months before and some of the ship抯 bottom may actually be joined. However, the keel laying symbolically recognizes the joining of modular components and the ceremonial beginning of a ship.
     Ship Naming: On 3 March 1819 an act of Congress formally placed the responsibility for assigning names to the Navy's ships in the hands of the Secretary of the Navy, a prerogative which he still exercises. This act stated that “all of the ships, of the Navy of the United States, now building, or hereafter to be built, shall be named by the Secretary of the Navy, under the direction of the President of the United States, according to the following rule, to wit: those of the first class shall be called after the States of this Union; those of the second class after the rivers; and those of the third class after the principal cities and towns; taking care that no two vessels of the navy shall bear the same name.” The last-cited provision remains in the United States Code today.
     How will the Navy name its ships in the future? It seems safe to say that the evolutionary process of the past will continue; as the Fleet itself changes, so will the names given to its ships. It seems equally safe, however, to say that future decisions in this area will continue to demonstrate regard for the rich history and valued traditions of the United States Navy. Read more about the “Ship Naming in the United States Navy”.
     Pre-Commissioning Crew: The Sailors who will eventually crew the ship. They are selected and ordered to the ship starting about 12-18 months prior to delivery. They establish a pre-comm detachment at the ship抯 prospective homeport and a pre-comm unit (PCU) at the construction site. The prospective crew will phase transfer to the construction site starting with the nucleus crew about 12 months before delivery through to the arrival of the balance crew shortly before delivery.

     Stepping the Mast: The placement of the mast into the hull in ancient times signified the moment when a 搒hell truly became a ship. To commemorate that moment, the Romans placed coins under mast for good luck or to help deceased Sailors into the afterworld. Today, coins, often reflecting the ship抯 hull numbers, are typically placed under or near the mast for good luck in a small ceremony.

     Launching: This is the point when the ship enters the water for the first time. Traditionally, it coincides with the ship抯 christening with the ship sliding down the ways into the water with a splash. Today, many launchings, such as the one for San Antonio (LPD 17) take place separately from the christening. For example, San Antonio was moved from the ways into a drydock, which when lowered enabled the ship to 揻loat for the first time.
     Christening: The official launching ceremony recognizing the 揻loating of a ship by name and marked with the traditional breaking of a bottle of champagne across the bow.
     The blessing of ships dates as far back as the third millennium BC, when the ancient Babylonians, according to a narrative, sacrificed an oxen to the gods upon completion of a ship. Throughout history, different cultures developed and shaped the religious ceremony surrounding a ship launching.
     Today the christening is often conducted after the launching. The ship抯 sponsors who are most often women break the bottom of champagne and ceremonially give the ship its name. The first recorded christening of a United States Navy ship is USS Constitution, on Oct. 21, 1797 in Boston, where the ship抯 sponsor, Capt. James Sever, broke a bottle of wine across the bow as 揙ld Ironsides slid into the water.

USS Constitution
     Builders Trials: An intense underway period to demonstrate the satisfactory operation of all installed shipboard equipment and performance of the ship as a whole in accordance with the plans and specifications. Typically conducted 2-3 months before delivery, Builders Trials is run by the shipbuilder and intended to 搒hake out the bugs prior to Acceptance Trials. Ships Force and other Navy personnel are onboard primarily as 搃nterested observers.
     Acceptance Trials: Conducted just prior to delivery. Another intense underway period to demonstrate the satisfactory operation of all installed shipboard equipment and performance of the ship as a whole in accordance with the plans and specifications. Acceptance Trials (AT抯) is supervised by selected ships force personnel and INSURV. The ship is operated wholly by the builder. These trials formally identify key items (starred cards) which must be corrected prior to delivery and other items which should be corrected before Final Contract Trials.
     Delivery (also referred to as Ships Custody Transfer (SCT)): The official turnover of custody of a ship from the shipyard to the U.S. Navy. This private ceremony involves the Prospective Commanding Officer who actually signs for the ship. This event normally coincides with Move Aboard when the Pre-commissioning crew moves aboard and starts living, eating, standing watch, training and working aboard the ship while final work continues in the shipyard.
     Sail Away: The ship抯 final departure from the construction yard for its homeport or commissioning site. It signifies the end of the new construction period and the beginning of its life preparing to perform the mission it was designed to undertake.
     Commissioning: The commissioning ceremony marks the acceptance of a ship as a unit of the operating forces of the United States Navy. At the moment of breaking the commissioning pennant, the ship will 揷ome alive and the crew will ceremonially run aboard ship. Thereafter the ship is officially referred to as a United States Ship (USS).

USS Mustin - Twilight commissioning ceremony
     Final Contract Trials (FCT抯): An intense underway period to demonstrate the satisfactory operation of all installed shipboard equipment and performance of the ship as a whole in accordance with the plans and specifications. Typically conducted about one year after delivery, FCT is observed by INSURV. Ships equipment is operated by and all demonstrations run by Ships Force with limited builder assistance. It is very similar to an INSURV.

Additional Information and guidance can be found in various OPNAV instructions and NAVSEA instructions.
This “Guide to PRECOM Facts and Terms” is not considered all-encompassing.
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