The U.S. Navy christened its newest guided-missile destroyer (DDG 121), the USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. on October 6. The christening ceremony took place in Pascagoula, Mississippi at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard where the Petersen is being constructed.
In a press release, the Department of Defense stated that the ship will be sponsored by Dr. Alicia J. Petersen, widow of the late Frank E. Petersen Jr. and D’Arcy Neller, wife of Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller.
Donning their hardhats, the two sponsors simultaneously broke two bottles of champagne across the bow of the ship, officially christening her as the USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. The ship is still currently under construction at Huntington Ingalls Industries and will be commissioned into active service after assembly is complete.
The future USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. is the first ship named in honor of Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen Jr., the first African-American Marine Corps aviator and the first African-American Marine Corps officer promoted to brigadier general. pic.twitter.com/b3Hlfqr517
— NAVSEA (@NAVSEA) October 9, 2018
A Major Milestone
The christening is a time-honored naval tradition as well as a major milestone for the shipyard personnel. The ceremony recognizes the hard work from all involved who created a floating engineering marvel out of steel and wire.
Ingalls Shipbuilding has a history of working with the Navy on ship construction. According to their website, the future Frank E. Petersen Jr. is the 33rd similar ship to be built by the company.
“Every milestone in a ship’s life brings it one step closer to protecting our freedom. From major and minor lifts, to the start of fabrication and keel authentication ceremonies, these milestones are celebrated by the shipbuilder and our U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard customers,” their website said. “As the shipbuilder, we celebrate not only the significance of these milestones in the life of our ships, but recognize the achievements of the men and women of our workforce.”
A Legacy of Trailblazing
The ship’s namesake, Frank E. Petersen Jr., was the first African-American Marine aviator and the first African-American to attain the rank of Brigadier General. He served on active duty for 38 years, retiring in 1988 as the most senior aviator in both the Marine Corps and Navy.
According to the Marine Corps’ Communication Directorate, Petersen served during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He flew over 350 combat missions and totaled over 4,000 flight hours during his career.
“The future USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. will serve for decades as a reminder of Lt. Gen. Petersen’s service to our nation and Navy and Marine Corps team,” Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer said.
Today, the @USNavy christened its newest guided-missile destroyer in honor of the first African-American #Marine aviator, Lt. Gen. Frank E. #Petersen, Jr. He was also the first African-American @USMC officer promoted to brigadier general. https://t.co/yzxgal2hmA #shipchristening pic.twitter.com/QbK0ErhATZ
— DVIDSHub (@DVIDSHub) October 6, 2018
The ship is DDG-121 and the 71st in the Arleigh Burke-class of ship. According to the DoD, the ship will work to “enable power projection, forward presence, and escort operations at sea in support of Low Intensity Conflict/Coastal and Littoral Offshore Warfare, as well as open ocean conflict.” Like its peers in the Flight IIA Destroyer class, the future Frank E. Petersen Jr. will boast advanced electronics and capabilities.
The DoD stated that the ship “will be equipped with the Navy’s Aegis Combat System, the world’s foremost integrated naval weapon” as well as Cooperative Engagement Capability technology.