From left, Allie Fruge, Emily Babineaux and Emma Butler, all members of House of Worship Church in Sweetlake, play laser tag aboard the USS Orleck in Lake Charles. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)
Artillery rounds on display on the USS Orleck. (Michelle Higginbotham / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, July 05, 2012 8:05 PM
Docked on the Calcasieu River at the end of Enterprise Boulevard, the USS Orleck is serving as a museum, laser tag arena and special events center.
The Orleck was a Navy destroyer that was in service from 1945-99 by the U.S. and Turkish navies.
The ship serves as a museum, with guided tours available to explore the ship and learn about life on board. Tours usually last about an hour and allow visitors to see most decks. Most of the ship is in good order, and museum director Ron Wiliams told interesting stories about each room we entered during the tour, giving you a good idea of what life was like aboard the ship, as well as the ship’s history, which includes service in the Korean and Vietnam wars and a stint in the Turkish Navy before it was donated to serve as a museum in Orange, Texas. Later, it was relocated to Lake Charles.
Highlights of the tour include the wheelhouse, where you can stand at the helm; the command room and a museum area that contains displays such as model ships, memorabilia that includes uniforms donated by former service members and their families and a handmade scrapbook with entries from several decades relating to naval history.
Most of the ship is accessible, with many areas still in working condition. Other areas have been renovated, while some other areas still need work and remain off-limits. Renovation and restoration work is still in progress, but the vast majority of the ship is seen during the tour, and navigation is not terribly difficult. Space is tight in some areas, and moving between decks requires going up and down somewhat steep ladders.
Some rooms of the ship, including those used for parties or other special events, are air-conditioned.
There are some poignant moments during the tour, such as when Williams talks about the ship’s namesake, Lt. Joe Orleck. Orleck was commanding officer of the USS Nauset and died when the ship was attacked off the coast of Italy in 1943. The Orleck family helped secure the donation of the ship from Turkey.
The tour is in equal parts informative, emotional and entertaining and is worth the time and small admission fee if you have any interest in military or maritime history. The staff at the ship is made up of volunteers, and the museum is operated by a non-profit organization.
In addition to serving as a museum, the ship can be a site for action and adventure. It can be rented for laser tag, with a variety of packages, including special effects, catering and party services available.
Williams said the ship has already hosted a variety of parties and special events, including birthday parties, tea socials, retirement celebrations and receptions. The ship has also been used for photo opportunities and other special occasions. Different areas of the ship are available for different events.