WILMINGTON, N.C. (NNS) -- The Navy's newest Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer, USS Gravely (DDG 107) was commissioned in Wilmington, N.C., Nov. 20.
The ceremony honored the late Vice Adm. Samuel Lee Gravely, Jr., who achieved many 'firsts' as an officer in the United States Navy.
Gravely was the first African American to command a warship (USS Theodore E. Chandler (DD 717)); to command a warship in combat (USS Taussig (DD 746)); to command a major warship (USS Jouett (DLG 29)); to attain flag rank; to become a vice admiral; and to command a numbered fleet (3rd Fleet).
"This warship is now ready to serve our great nation and carry on the example of a great American, a great man, and a great naval officer, Vice Adm. Samuel L. Gravely. A surface warrior and a man who accomplished many firsts in his 38 years of service," said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead in the ceremony's principal address.
While visiting Wilmington, Gravely Sailors were busy meeting the community before the commissioning. Sailors visited local hospitals, senior centers and schools and helped beautify an Army National Guard memorial. Locals took advantage of the more than 3,000 free tours of the ship the Sailors offered.
A crowd of approximately 4,000 attended the commissioning ceremony held at North Carolina State Ports in Wilmington. Many in attendance were family and friends of USS Gravely's crew, while others were friends and family of Gravely himself, including veterans who served with him on the USS Taussig and his widow, the ship's sponsor, Alma Gravely.
Cmdr. Douglas Kunzman, USS Gravely's commanding officer, told Mrs. Gravely that "Vice Admiral Gravely has made this the easiest job and at times the hardest job. The easiest because his sacrifice and vision is so clear to me that it provides constant direction and inspiration to myself and my crew. My leadership is modeled by his example."
"It's the hardest because the crew does not want to let you down," said Kunzman. "Every time we walk the brow or salute the flag, we do it in memory of him and his sacrifice."
Mrs. Gravely let the crew know that she believed they were ready.
"I have great confidence that you will keep a clean ship, have respect for each other and good morale at sea and on shore at all times. In keeping with these requests from me (and my husband) I know that you and our wonderful ship are ready today to go to sea. And if in harm's way will be ready to stay its course."
The ceremony concluded when Mrs. Gravely ordered the crew, "Bring our ship to life!" The Sailors manned the rails, bringing the Navy's newest destroyer to life.
For more news from PCU Gravely (DDG 107), visit www.navy.mil/local/ddg107/.