Wednesday, April 22, 2009

USS Stockdale Commissioned in Port Hueneme

By Jeana Diacono, Naval Base Ventura County Public Affairs

Video report at this URL

PORT HUENEME, Calif. (NNS) -- USS Stockdale (DDG 106) was commissioned at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC), Port Hueneme before a crowd of 3,000 military and civilian dignitaries April 18.

USS Stockdale is the first ship to be named in honor of the late Adm. James B. Stockdale. He is known as one of the Navy's greatest heroes and most decorated officers. He earned the Medal of Honor after spending 7 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He was also awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Air Medal and the POW Medal.

He became the highest ranked naval officer to be held as a POW when he was shot down over enemy territory. While imprisoned, he was often tortured and beaten. At one time during his imprisonment, in order to prevent his captives from using him as propaganda, Stockdale slit his scalp and beat himself with a chair. He also slit his wrists to show that he preferred death to submission.

While her husband was imprisoned, his wife Sybil Stockdale, along with her organization the League of Families, took action to make sure the president and the U.S. Congress acknowledged the mistreatment of the POWs. With her help, 7 1/2 years after his capture, Stockdale was released.

"James Stockdale is a true American hero," Ross Perot, one of the ceremony's guest speakers, said. "Admiral Stockdale's life can be defined by these words: patriot, guardian of our freedom, combat fighter, scholar, hero, fearless, brilliant, modest, an outstanding leader, a man of excellent integrity, outstanding husband and father and a role model for our nation."

Jeffrey Geiger, president of Bath Iron Works, represented the 5,600 men and women that helped build the ship. He directed his remarks to the ship's crew..

"We have given you a great ship to compliment a great captain and a great crew," Geiger said. "Go forward with confidence and write a fascinating tale for USS Stockdale."

Wilmot N. Summerall, executive director for surface combatants, PEO ships spoke next, followed by Rear Adm. Victor Guillory, director, Surface Warfare Division. He says Stockdale is designed and built to lean into the fight and win.

"To the crew of the USS Stockdale, well done for your teamwork and months of preparation," Guillory said. "I wish you, your crew and your families God speed and fare winds as you bring this ship to life."

Vice Adm. D.C. Curtis, Commander Naval Surface Forces/Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and Allison Stiller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Ship Programs, spoke next. They spoke warmly about the commanding officer of the ship, Cmdr. Fred W. Kacher.

"He has served as an operations officer, strike warfare officer, tactical action officer and executive officer. Kacher also won the 2005 Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Award for visionary leadership," Curtis said.

The principal speaker, Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander, U.S. Pacific Command, said partnership, readiness and presence are important qualities in the Navy.

"To those of you that will soon man USS Stockdale, you will demonstrate partnership, you will exhibit readiness and you will most assuredly be present," Keating said. "I guarantee you are going to be busy."

When Keating finished, it was time for the historic moment. Cmdr. Kacher read his orders and the first watch was set. Mrs. Sybil Stockdale and her granddaughter, Elizabeth Eiseman-Stockdale, were then asked to issue the traditional order—to commission the ship.

"Officers and crew of USS Stockdale, man our ship and bring her to life!" Eiseman-Stockdale said.

To the strains of "Anchors Aweigh" the crew of Sailors ran up the center aisles and onto the ship to man the rails.

A loud roar filled the air. Sirens blared, smoke billowed out from the ship and guns fired. Four F-18s from VFA 137, Naval Air Station Lemoore, seemed to materialize from the smoke, roaring ahead as they flew over the crowd. The crowd cheered as the ship was officially commissioned.

The 509-foot guided missile destroyer has a crew of 34 officers and 254 Sailors. Stockdale weighs 9,200 tons when fully loaded, has a 66 foot beam and can reach a maximum speed of 30 plus knots. The ship's motto is "Return with Honor."

Stockdale carries two SH-60B Light Airborne Multipurpose System LAMPS MK III helicopters with Penguin/Hellfire missiles and MK 46/MK 50 torpedoes. The ship also carries 96 Cell MK 41 Vertical Launching System Small boats and two MK 6 Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats.

The ship's homeport is San Diego.