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Navy commissions destroyer named for the first MCPON

The Navy commissioned the guided-missile destroyer Delbert D. Black Saturday morning.

Named for the first master chief petty officer of the Navy, the Arleigh Burke class destroyer is the result of more than 10 years' work by multiple MCPONs to name a ship for Black.

Ten former MCPONs and current MCPON Russell L. Smith attended the ceremony in Port Canaveral, Florida.

“This ship doesn’t just recognize Del. It recognizes all sailors for the contributions they’ve made throughout the years. It recognizes how important a senior enlisted voice is to the Navy,” said Steven S. Giordano, 14th MCPON.

Black, who died in 2000, was a World War II veteran who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. But despite his hallowed status, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for him.

As the first to be appointed as highest-ranking enlisted sailor, it was not uncommon for his position to be met with resentment and objections from the officers he served with, his wife of more than 50 years, Ima J. Black, recalled.

Ima Black, also a Navy veteran, met her husband at a basketball game while serving as a storekeeper first class, according to the Navy’s All Hands Magazine. She served under the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service effort established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command reported.

Black recounted the struggles to establish the MCPON position himself in a video interview released by the Navy earlier this month.

“I think my husband would be pleased the ship named for him is a destroyer, because he served on a few," said Irma Black, present at the ceremony as the ship’s sponsor,

“Master chief Black was a trailblazer for all future MCPONs to follow,” said Cmdr. Mark Gallagher, the ship’s executive officer. “This ship and her crew are honored to bear the name Delbert D. Black.”

Also present at the ceremony were Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition James F. Geurts; Adm. William K. Lescher, vice chief of naval operations; and Rear Adm. Thomas J. Anderson, program executive officer, ships.

When it came time for the commissioning, Geurts called Smith to the podium, asking the current MCPON to do the honors of commissioning a ship named for the first of his position.

“Del Black forged these anchors that I wear. As 15th master chief petty officer of the Navy, I seek to be the kind of chief that Del Black would have welcomed in his mess,” Smith said.

Commissioned Sept. 26, 2020, the destroyer Delbert D Black suffered setbacks after a collision in the shipbuilder's port. (MC1 Sarah Villegas/Navy)
Commissioned Sept. 26, 2020, the destroyer Delbert D Black suffered setbacks after a collision in the shipbuilder's port. (MC1 Sarah Villegas/Navy)

The building of the ship, which cost about $1.5 billion, according to the ship’s Facebook page, was set back last year when a Norwegian company’s vessel collided with a barge which then collided with the ship. The estimated damages were about $31 million and delayed construction.

Now that the Delbert D. Black is seaworthy and fully manned, Lescher expressed confidence in the ship and its crew to perform at the highest of standards.

“May this ship be worthy of your husband’s name and legacy and be a strong reminder to all of the power and strength of U.S. Navy sailors,” he said to Ima Black.

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