CHARLESTON, South Carolina — The Navy commissioned its newest Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, USS Frank E. Petersen, Jr. (DDG 121), May 14 in Charleston, South Carolina.
Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro attended the ceremony. He began by thanking the Petersen family for their lifetime of service to the nation. “We all join you in honoring Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr.” Del Toro also acknowledged the plank owners who brought the ship to life. “As Secretary of the Navy, I am doing everything I can to ensure that you and your families are equipped for the many challenges that lie ahead. That starts with making sure you have the best ship our country has. has to offer.
The keynote speaker was the Honorable Carlos Campbell, Naval Aviator and former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, who served alongside Petersen and told stories illustrating the general’s strength and dedication. Recalling Petersen’s ethics, Campbell said, “He received a fragmentation wound, was treated in the field and returned to action.”
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday also attended the ceremony. “It is only fitting that a name synonymous with service and sacrifice be inscribed on the steel of this American warship,” Gilday said. “The sailors aboard this mighty warship will deploy wherever, whenever needed, with the fighting spirit and tenacity of General Petersen, for generations to come.”
Gen. David Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps, also attended the ceremony. “General Petersen was a man of many firsts,” Berger said. “There’s a saying that ships take on the characteristics of their namesakes, and if that’s true, then God help any adversary to face the Frank E. Petersen, Jr.”
Mrs. Gayle Petersen, Lt. Gen. Petersen’s daughter, expressed her thanks on behalf of her family and gave special recognition. “We wouldn’t have this ceremony today without a gentleman named Robert Adams. When my father was shot in Vietnam, he was rescued by Robert Adams. Gayle continued: “I want to thank everyone who participated in the construction of this ship, from bow to stern.”
Guest speakers at the event included the Honorable Nancy Mace, U.S. Representative for South Carolina’s 1st District; The Honorable John Tecklenberg, Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina; Mr. George Nungesser, Vice President of Program Management, Ingalls Shipbuilding.
The ship’s sponsors are Mrs. D’Arcy Ann Neller, wife of former Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Robert “Bob” Neller, USMC (Ret.), and the late Dr. Alicia J. Petersen, Lt. Gen. Petersen’s wife at the time of his death in 2015. Dr. Petersen died in September 2021. Both sponsors participated in the keel laying, masting and christening ceremonies.
Ms. Neller thanked the families. “Our military cannot do what they do without you, without your love and support. To officers and crew. A ship without a crew is like a body without blood. You will all revive this ship. She continued. “The namesake of this ship was a warrior. He always went with the sound of the guns; he was always prepared and smart about the risks he took. You must all be the same. Always be ready. Work hard and when the time comes, you will be ready to enter the tiger’s mouth.
During the ceremony, the Commanding Officer of the USS Frank E. Petersen, Cmdr. Daniel Hancock, reported that the ship was ready. Assisted by Lt. Gen. Petersen’s daughters, Gayle Petersen, Dana Petersen Moore, Lindsay Pulliam and Monique Petersen, Mrs. Neller gave the traditional order to “Pilot our ship and bring it to life!”
“Our incredible team takes great pride in their work. I can think of no better warrior namesake than General Frank E. Petersen Jr. None of us who know his history have ever forgotten that we are the heirs of this mighty heritage, and like the General, we have committed to owning the fight and proudly carrying his torch,” Hancock said. “I want to express my gratitude and my pride. It is my greatest professional honor to serve with each of my teammates. I am proud beyond measure. “
Lieutenant General Petersen carries on a family legacy of service started by his great-grandfather. Private Archibald (Archie) Charles McKinney enlisted in 1863 and served with Mass 55th Company E during the Civil War. McKinney’s return trip included a trip aboard a steamer, landing at the port of Charleston.
The future USS Frank E. Petersen, Jr. honors Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. (USMC Ret.). Petersen was the first black Airman in the USMC and the first black Marine to become a three-star general. Petersen served two combat tours, Korea in 1953 and Vietnam in 1968. He flew over 350 combat missions and logged over 4,000 hours in various fighter and attack aircraft. Petersen died in August 2015 at the age of 83.
Retired in 1988 after 38 years of service, Petersen’s awards included the Defense Superior Service Medal; Legion of Merit with Combat “V”; Distinguished Flying Cross; Purple Heart; Meritorious Service Medal; Air Medal; Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V”; and the Air Force Commendation Medal.
Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are the backbone of the US Navy’s surface fleet. These high-performance multi-mission ships conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence to national security, providing a wide range of combat capabilities in multi-threat air, surface and subterranean areas.
For more information on Naval Surface Forces, visit DVIDS – Commander, Naval Surface Force, US Pacific Fleetand Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
For more information about the ship, visit USS Frank E. Petersen, Jr. (DDG 121).