Monday, May 18, 2009

Navy Christens Newest Arleigh Burke-Class Ship Gravely

PASCAGOULA, Miss (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy christened the newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, USS Gravely (DDG 107), May 16, during a ceremony at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Miss.

"For those of you who sail on Gravely, this is your legacy. The namesake of your ship was the consummate Navy professional. He was calm in command, quiet and confident to his approach to any question, but make no mistake: He wore the unmistakable mantle of the captain." said retired Adm. J. Paul Reason, who delivered the ceremony's principal remarks.

Alma Gravely served as the sponsor of the ship named for her late husband. In accordance with Navy tradition, she broke a bottle of champagne across the ship's bow and christened the ship.

She said she looks forward to staying engaged with the crew and has already told the prospective commanding officer to have family cruises, known in the Navy as tiger cruises.

"It would be our duty and pleasure to be with the ship and be a part of the ship for the rest of the ship's life or my life and the children's lives, and I'm really looking forward to a family cruise."

She said her husband would be very proud of the honor to have a ship named after him.

"Whatever job you have, make sure you do it well because it's your ship and you want to be number one when they grade them for the [Battle] E. Keep the ship clean and do your job well."

The new destroyer honors the late Vice Adm. Samuel L. Gravely Jr. After attending Virginia Union University, he enlisted in the Navy Reserve in September 1942. In 1943 he participated in a Navy program (V-12) designed to select and train highly qualified men for commissioning as officers in the Navy. On Dec. 14, 1944, Gravely successfully completed midshipman training, becoming the first African American commissioned as an officer from the Navy Reserve Officer Training Course. He was released from active duty in April 1946, but remained in the Navy Reserve.

Gravely was recalled to active duty in 1949. As part of the Navy's response to President Truman's executive order to desegregate the armed services, his initial assignment was as a Navy Recruiter, recruiting African Americans in the Washington, D.C., area. Gravely went on to a Navy career that lasted 38 years and included many distinguished accomplishments.

"Appropriately DDG 107 will be a member of the most powerful class of surface ships ever put to sea. She will serve as a platform for heroes for decades to come. We now have a vessel bearing his name to remind us who broke down the barriers that once kept African Americans away from the Navy," said Acting Secretary of the Navy B.J. Penn.

Gravely was a true pathfinder whose performance and leadership as an African American Naval officer demonstrated to America the value and strength of diversity. Gravely's accomplishments served as watershed events for today's Navy. He was the first African American to command a warship (USS Theodore E. Chandler); to command a major warship (USS Jouett); to achieve flag rank and eventually vice admiral; and to command a numbered fleet (Third Fleet).

Gravely's wife said the late admiral would urge the ship's crew to pursue educational opportunities to achieve some of the same accomplishments.

"He believed in education, and I know that he would be telling them to study and get your education so that you can be promoted. He believed in education very, very much."

Cmdr. Douglas Kunzman is the prospective commanding officer of the ship and will lead the crew of 276 officers and enlisted personnel of the 9,200-ton vessel.

"This is a Flight Two Alpha destroyer so it has two helicopter hangers, so it will carry as part of the ship's company two helicopters. In addition to that, it will bring a wide variety of new weapons systems, not just the munitions that are put on board but also the gun weapons systems to include the crew served weapons that are used today in countering piracy and also other small boat threats and small boat attacks," said Kunzman.

Designated DDG 107, the 57th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, Gravely will be able to conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence and crisis management to sea control and power projection. Gravely will be capable of fighting air, surface and subsurface battles simultaneously and contains a myriad of offensive and defensive weapons designed to apply maritime power to protect U.S. vital interests in an increasingly interconnected and uncertain world.