SECNAV Announces Ship to be Named After First MCPON
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Stuart B. Phillips, Office of the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy
Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus announced that the future Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer (DDG 119) will be named USS Delbert D. Black after the first Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) at a ship naming ceremony held at the Navy Memorial in Washington March 13.
The ceremony was attended by numerous distinguished visitors, to include MCPON Black’s surviving widow, Mrs. Ima Black, as well as the current MCPON, Mike Stevens.
As Stevens introduced SECNAV to the audience, he hinted at the name of the future ship about to be revealed to the public.
“I think it’s safe for me to say that the ship that’s about to be named will always be manned at 100 percent in the Chief’s Mess,” said Stevens. “They won’t have trouble keeping chiefs on it, but I know they will have trouble getting chiefs to transfer off it.”
After his introduction, SECNAV explained that the role of the office of the MCPON is to act as an advisor to the chief of naval operations and to represent Sailors and their families.
“The MCPON doesn’t just care for our Sailors and Marines though,” said Mabus. “Through partnerships with our spouse organizations, he also is the voice for the hundreds of thousands of family members. For them as well, he is an educator, a spokesperson, an advocate.”
Mabus went on to say that in 1967, Master Chief Gunner’s Mate Delbert Black was selected to be the senior enlisted advisor of the Navy, a title later changed to master chief petty officer of the Navy. Mabus explained the significance of naming a ship after an individual, and why MCPON Black was chosen for this honor.
“In the Navy, per traditional ship-naming convention, our destroyers are named after naval heroes,” said Mabus. A list of his tough duty assignments may give us a small glimpse of the service Master Chief Black gave to this country, but it doesn’t even begin to cover the numerous lives he touched or personal sacrifices he made for his Sailors and our Navy. He is a true hero.”
Ima Black, a WWII veteran of the Navy’s Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) was greeted with applause as she addressed the audience and spoke about what the ceremony meant to her.
“Good morning Shipmates,” she began. “It’s a beautiful day. A beautiful day to name a ship the USS Delbert D. Black. So let me tell you a little something about this wonderful Sailor that I was married to for 50 years. As has been said, he was a gunner’s mate, so that meant that he spent a lot of time at sea. He loved the sea. I often wanted to ask him, who do you love more - me or the sea?”
She explained that upon taking the office of the MCPON, her husband started from scratch, with no real formal direction, and laid the foundation of what that office has become today.
“At the end of four years, the office was up and running and we were ready to retire,” said Ima. “We retired in 1971, and soon we heard that there would be a ship named the USS Delbert D. Black. In my heart I knew that one day this would happen, I just didn’t know it would take so long. Thank you Mr. Secretary. And Mr. Secretary, when you go to Pascagoula, would you tell the shipbuilders to please hurry up, I’m running out of time!”
Born July 22, 1922, in Orr, Okla., Delbert D. Black graduated from high school in 1940 and enlisted in the Navy March 14, 1941. Following recruit training, he was assigned to USS Maryland (BB 46) and was aboard in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Surviving the attack, Black’s career went on to span 30 years, culminating in his selection as the MCPON on Jan. 13, 1967.