|With Ingalls Shipbuilding President Brian Cuccias (right) observing, shipfitter Bob Boegner (left) and Ship Sponsor Georgeann McRaven delcare the keel of Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) to be “truly and fairly laid.” Photo by Lance Davis/HII.|
Pascagoula September 23, 2014 - Huntington Ingalls Industries' Ingalls Shipbuilding division authenticated the keel for the company's 30th Aegis guided missile destroyer, Ralph Johnson (DDG 114), today. To make it official, Georgeann McRaven, ship sponsor and wife of retired Adm. William McRaven, former commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, proclaimed the keel of DDG 114 to be "truly and fairly laid."
"We have a long history of building surface combatants, and the DDG 51 destroyers have become the backbone of the U.S. Navy's fleet," said Ingalls Shipbuilding President Brian Cuccias. "These are complex vessels built by experienced shipbuilders. This ship class is benefitting from serial production and commonality and is one of our most successful programs."
Mrs. McRaven was joined in the authentication by Bob Boegner, an Ingalls shipfitter who has worked on numerous Aegis cruisers and destroyers since he began working in 1973. His initials, along with Mrs. McRaven's, were permanently welded onto a ceremonial keel plate by Ingalls welder Jimmy Ellis.
"Each one of you at Ingalls Shipbuilding is doing so much to keep our country safe," Mrs. McRaven said. "You are building ships that will make our Navy strong and powerful and keep our young sailors safe. I am so proud to be the sponsor of your ship, Ralph Johnson, and I am honored—truly honored—to know you all."
DDG 114 is named to honor Pfc. Ralph Henry Johnson, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions that saved others during the Vietnam War. Johnson shouted a warning to his fellow Marines and hurled himself on an explosive device, saving the life of one Marine and preventing the enemy from penetrating his sector of the patrol's perimeter. Johnson died instantly. The Charleston, S.C., native had only been in Vietnam for two months and a few days when he was killed at the age of 20.
On April 20, 1970, President Richard M. Nixon posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest recognition and honor a member of the United States military can receive. On Sept. 5, 1991, 23 years after his heroic act, the Veterans Hospital in Charleston was renamed the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Hospital.
"As we remember Private Johnson's courage, we realize that every time the men and women of Ingalls Shipbuilding start construction on another destroyer, they build a living, lasting reminder of either the courage, or the leadership or the intellectual contribution of the very best the Navy-Marine Corps team has had to offer," said Capt. Mark Vandroff, the Navy's DDG 51 program manager. "The entire Navy team and I are grateful for the hard work that the men and women of Ingalls Shipbuilding do every day. The Navy and the nation depend on your skills to provide the warships we use to defend freedom around the world. Thank you for the outstanding work you have already done on DDG 114, and I look forward to seeing the excellence on the work ahead."
Ralph Johnson is 26 percent complete and is scheduled to be delivered in 2017. Ingalls is also building the destroyer John Finn (DDG 113), which is 49 percent complete and is expected to be delivered in 2016. Construction will begin on Ingalls' 31st DDG 51 destroyer, Paul Ignatius (DDG 117), on Sept. 30.
To date, Ingalls has delivered 28 DDG 51 destroyers to the Navy. The highly capable, multi-mission ships can conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence and crisis management to sea control and power projection, all in support of the United States' military strategy. DDGs are capable of simultaneously fighting air, surface and subsurface battles. The ship contains myriad offensive and defensive weapons designed to support maritime defense needs well into the 21st century.