By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
March 6, 2010 - The Navy commissioned the newest guided-missile destroyer, the USS Dewey, to its fleet today at a ceremony steeped in naval symbolism and tradition. At the Naval Weapons Station here, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivered remarks to a crowd of thousands before the admiral's wife Deborah Mullen, the ship's sponsor, called the order that brought the $1 billion warship to life.
"You're getting a true gem: a ship as well built and well-tested as they come and manned by performance-proven, highly motivated sailors. May you deploy Dewey to the tip of the spear." Mullen said from a podium aboard its quarterdeck.
USS Dewey, the 55th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, can conduct an array of operations, officials said, including the capability to fight simultaneous air, surface and subsurface battles. Considered part of the Navy's Aegis combat warship fleet, the Dewey can detect threats nearly 100 miles away.
For Mullen, today's event was something of a homecoming. The Los Angeles-native recalled serving early in his career on the USS Collett, which was stationed in Long Beach. But in the years since, the admiral said, the security environment in which the U.S. Navy operates has expanded to challenges that are "global in scope" and have required the military to adapt to change.
"In the future, there will be more allies and competitors, more challenges and more opportunities to engage, equating to a greater range of maritime missions than ever before," he said. "You cannot shrink from that. Resolve yourselves to be up for the challenge, to always be ready (and) to lead the future."
The story of the USS Dewey itself is one of continuity and change, as two previous ships have been the namesake of Adm. George Dewey and operated under vastly different circumstances. The first was a destroyer that survived the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and went on to receive 13 battle stars for World War II service. The second was a Cold War-era destroyer commissioned as a guided-missile frigate before being reclassified as a guided missile destroyer.
The new destroyer also honors Dewey, a hero of the Spanish-American War, who led his squadron of warships into Manila Bay in April 1898 and destroyed the Spanish fleet in two hours. Not a single American died in the fight.
The commissioning today marked the final phase of the new ship's symbolic evolution, some two years after Mullen's wife christened the Dewey at a ceremony in early 2008. In keeping with tradition, Deborah Mullen today invoked the time-honored Navy tradition by ordering the crew to "Man our ship and bring her to life!"
Upon hearing the command, columns of crewmembers standing in formation on the port sprinted up gangways onto the Dewey. Volleys of gunfire blasted from mounted pieces on the quarterdeck, alarms and horns blared, radars and satellites swiveled in place as the personnel lined the ship and saluted the crowd.
Navy Cmdr. Warren R. Buller, the commanding officer of the USS Dewey, said in an interview before the ceremony that in addition to placing the ship in formal commission, today's event recognizes the hard work of the Navy personnel that brought it to this point.
"Remember, when the navy buys a ship, it's not like buying a car where you just come in and drive it off the lot. Imagine if you bought a car and they made you put in the seats and seatbelts," he said. "So really today's a recognition and celebration of the hard work of the crew to get the ship from shipyard to the Pacific Fleet."
Navy Personnel Specialist 2 Randi Dozier, who has been assigned to the ship since March 2008, said today's commissioning marked the crew's crowning achievement.
"This is the defining moment when it's brought to life," she said. "It wouldn't have gotten here without everybody's hard work. I'm happy to see it finally come to commission."