WASHINGTON: The Navy will commission its newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, Gravely, during an 11 a.m. EST ceremony Nov. 20 in Wilmington, N.C. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead will deliver the ceremony’s principal address.
Alma Gravely will serve as sponsor of the ship named for her late husband. The ceremony will be highlighted by a time-honored Navy tradition when she gives the first order to “man our ship and bring her to life!”
Designated DDG 107, the new destroyer honors the late Vice Adm. Samuel L. Gravely Jr. Gravely was born in Richmond, Va., June 4, 1922. After attending Virginia Union University, he enlisted in the Naval Reserve in September 1942. In 1943, he participated in a Navy program (V-12) designed to select and train highly qualified men for commissioning as officers. On Dec. 14, 1944, Gravely successfully completed midshipman training, becoming the first African American commissioned as an officer from the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps. He was released from active duty in April 1946, but remained in the Naval Reserve.
Gravely was recalled to active duty in 1949. As part of the Navy’s response to President Harry S. Truman’s executive order to desegregate the armed services, his initial assignment was as a Navy recruiter, recruiting African Americans in the Washington, D.C., area. Gravely went on to a Navy career that lasted 38 years and included many distinguished accomplishments.
Gravely’s performance and leadership as an African American Naval officer demonstrated to America the value and strength of diversity. Gravely’s accomplishments served as watershed events for today’s Navy. He was the first African American to command a warship, USS Theodore E. Chandler (DD 717); to command a major warship, USS Jouett (DLG/CG-29); to achieve flag rank and eventually vice admiral; and to command a numbered fleet, which was U.S. 3rd Fleet.
Gravely is the 57th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. The ship will be able to conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence and crisis management, to sea control and power projection. Gravely will be capable of fighting air, surface and subsurface battles simultaneously and contains a myriad of offensive and defensive weapons designed to support maritime warfare in keeping with “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower,” which postures the sea services to apply maritime power to protect U.S. vital interests.
Cmdr. Douglas Kunzman will become the first commanding officer of the ship and lead the crew of 276 officers and enlisted personnel. The 9,200-ton Gravely was built at Northrop Grumman’s Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss. The ship is 509 feet in length, has a waterline beam of 59 feet and a navigational draft of 31 feet. Four gas turbine engines will power the ship to speeds in excess of 30 knots.