PASCAGOULA, Miss. June 29, 2002 (PRIMEZONE) -- (WITH PHOTO) "Ships like Pinckney will allow our nation and our sailors to continue to do the work in fighting for freedom, ensuring that fear and terror will never prevail against liberty and freedom," U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi said here today during the christening of the new Aegis guided missile destroyer built by Northrop Grumman Corporation's (NYSE:NOC) Ship Systems sector.
"The United States Navy is second-to-none in sea power and in the capability and know-how to preserve freedom and project power for defeating terrorism and protecting the citizens of the United States of America," Sen. Cochran said. He was the principal speaker at the christening of the Pinckney (DDG 91), named to honor Navy Cook Third Class William Pinckney, (1915-1975), recipient of the Navy Cross for his courageous rescue of a fellow crewmember onboard the USS Enterprise during the Battle of Santa Cruz in 1942.
Sen. Cochran paid tribute to the men and women of Northrop Grumman Ship Systems who built DDG 91, calling them "the finest shipbuilders in America. We take great pride in the work that has been done here over the years. We are proud that Mississippi continues to work hand-in-hand with the U.S. Navy and private industry to ensure that we have the best Navy in the world."
More than 1,000 guests attended the emotional ceremony highlighting the selfless actions of Pinckney. Ray Bagwell told a memorable story about how Petty Officer Third Class Pinckney risked his own life to save Bagwell's father, Gunner's Mate James Raymond Bagwell, following an explosion onboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, an explosion that knocked Bagwell through a bulkhead.
"I believe my dad was blessed with a guardian angel, and that angel was William Pinckney," said Bagwell. "There was a substantial size difference between the two men, with my father weighing 20 pounds more than Pinckney. Despite this, Mr. Pinckney carried my dad up several decks even though he was severely burned. My father called it a miracle.
"If not for Mr. Pinckney, neither my sister, nor I, nor our children would be alive," he continued. "It's truly amazing how someone we never met could have such a profound effect on our lives. We are delighted and proud that he is being honored here today, especially since this is a fighting ship which is named for a valiant and courageous warrior. I hope that this ship and all who sail on her are blessed with crewmembers with the honor, courage and sense of duty and devotion that Mr. Pinckney obviously had."
At the pinnacle of the ceremony, ship's sponsor Mrs. Henrietta Middleton Pinckney, of Beaufort, S.C., Pinckney's widow, smashed a commemorative bottle of champagne across the bow of the ship, assisted by her longtime friend, Matron of Honor Mrs. Judith Adina Hill, of Somerset, N.J. Mrs. Pinckney christened the new ship "in memory of my beloved husband, and in the name of the United States of America."
Pinckney is the 41st ship in the Arleigh Burke (DDG 51)-class of Aegis guided missile destroyers - the U.S. Navy's most powerful destroyer fleet. These highly capable, multimission ships can conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence and crisis management to sea control and power projection.
"To the craftsmen of Northrop Grumman, among the finest in the world, we already see your handiwork before us in the sleek lines of Pinckney," said Vice Adm. Michael G. Mullen, USN, deputy chief of Naval Operations for Resources, Requirements and Assessments. "We know of your dedication, true craftsmanship and love of country. Your dedication to quality, your engineering skills and your truly artistic craftsmanship combine to form a patriotism of heart in hand that cannot be replaced. Those of us who do business in great waters on these ships recognize the value of your work and on behalf of every sailor at sea on your ships, I want to thank you for the invaluable contributions you make to our nation's defense."
Pinckney is the 19th Aegis destroyer to be launched and christened of 24 under contract to Northrop Grumman Ship Systems. Northrop Grumman's first 16 Aegis destroyers have been delivered to the Navy and commissioned into fleet service. Two additional ships now in production in Pascagoula will precede DDG 91 into the fleet.
"The men and women working on this ship are just one example of the perseverance, dedication and commitment that we have in this country today and I applaud them for their effort," said Mitchell Waldman, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for Ship Programs. "The name Pinckney sets a standard for the men and women who will serve upon her for years to come regarding the true meaning of the words - honor, courage and commitment. Thank you, Mrs. Pinckney, for allowing us to share in the history and great deeds that your husband has done."
"The greatest honor you can have as a Navy man is to have a ship named after you, and the Navy has done itself proud in this case," said Rear Adm. William W. Cobb Jr., USN, program executive officer for Theater Surface Combatants. "My pledge today is that we are going to continue to build the best ships in the world. They are going to be tough, stable and have all the weapons we can have because we will leave no one behind. All of us in this program are going to spend every waking moment making sure these ships are the strongest ever."
"Two million work hours have been put into this ship to bring her to this condition, and it will take another million hours of work to complete her as she prepares to join the Fleet," said Capt. Philip N. Johnson, USN, supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair, Pascagoula. "Whether Pinckney is keeping peace or engaging the enemy in battle, know that her success is rooted in the men and women who built her. Your efforts to deliver quality ships on schedule have not gone unnoticed. Thank you and I look forward to our future teamwork."
Pinckney will be homeported in San Diego, Calif., as a member of the Pacific Fleet's Destroyer Squadron TWENTY THREE. Cmdr. Robert M. Byron, USN, of Asheville, N.C., a 1985 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, will be the new ship's Commissioning Commanding Officer.
"It is a proud day for Northrop Grumman Ship Systems to honor the family and the legacy of an American hero," said Dr. Philip A. Dur, Northrop Grumman corporate vice president and president of the company's Ship Systems sector. "Our shipbuilders understand the importance of hard work, determination and dedication, and I believe that is reflected today in the combatant we christen here today. DDG 91 will continue a tradition of making each ship in this class even better than the previous one."
Northrop Grumman's Ship Systems sector includes primary operations in Pascagoula and Gulfport, Miss., and New Orleans and Tallulah, La., as well as in a network of fleet support offices in the U.S. and Japan. Ship Systems, which currently employs more than 17,000 shipbuilding professionals, primarily in Mississippi and Louisiana, is one of the nation's leading full service systems companies for the design, engineering, construction, and life cycle support of major surface ships for the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and international navies, and for commercial vessels of all types.
Northrop Grumman Corporation is an $18 billion, global defense company with its worldwide headquarters in Los Angeles. Northrop Grumman provides technologically advanced, innovative products, services and solutions in defense and commercial electronics, systems integration, information technology and nuclear and non-nuclear shipbuilding and systems. With nearly 100,000 employees and operations in 44 states and 25 countries, Northrop Grumman serves U.S. and international military, government, and commercial customers.
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