Thank you and good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
Mrs. McRaven; Admiral McRaven; Senator Wicker; Congressman Palazzo; Secretary Stackley; Lt. General Bailey; Vice Admiral Branch; Commander Patterson and the crew of the future USS Ralph Johnson; Distinguished platform guests; Johnson family members and friends; My fellow shipbuilders; Ladies and gentlemen;
Good morning to you all.
Before I begin my remarks, there is one additional group I’d like to personally welcome.
The Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport is home to more than 500 men and women representing all service branches. With an average age of 82 years young, these residents have served our Nation in both peace and war include recipients of the Bronze Star, Silver Star, and the Medal of Honor. Ladies and Gentlemen of the Armed Forces Retirement Home, please give us a wave so we can thank you for your service to our country.
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Pascagoula, Mississippi, and to Ingalls Shipbuilding!
We are proud to be the only shipyard in the United States building four major classes of military ships simultaneously. And we are proud that one of those classes is the Arleigh Burke class destroyer program. We’ve delivered 28 of these ships to the U.S. Navy—starting with the USS Barry in 1992 to USS William P. Lawrence in 2011. We’ve been awarded seven (7) more of these ships, and we have five currently under construction as you see around me.
This program—like our LPD’s and National Security Cutter programs—is proof of the benefits of a hot production line and our ability to improve cost with each new ship.
This ship is a true example of what we call “stationization” … moving specialized work crews from one ship to the next and improving efficiency and affordability. Because of this, we’re seeing learned improvements, which enabled us to launch this ship thirteen weeks faster than her predecessor, John Finn (DDG 113).
So while we’re proud of our performance on this ship, we’re also proud that it is named after a true American hero. You will hear a lot about Ralph Henry Johnson today.
What I want to share with you is that he was only 19 years old when he sacrificed his life for someone else’s. His story is tragic, but it’s also inspiring. It reminds us that anybody – regardless of age or rank—can make a difference.
Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are named in honor of legendary admirals and vice admirals—and even a President. And now Ralph Johnson joins them—immortalized in history in the form of a United States warship, that honors his heroic actions on that tragic day in 1968.
The thought that anyone can make a difference is prevalent here at Ingalls, where we say: “What you do today matters.” Let me tell you about two shipbuilders who are making a difference.
Patrick Dixon came to work at Ingalls when he was 24 years old. He had two older siblings in the yard: His brother worked in the Hull Department, and his sister worked as a boat clerk. That was 26 years ago.
His brother and sister have since retired, but Patrick is still here—making a difference each and every day. He graduated from the Apprentice School in 1994 and now works as a foreman in the Pipe Department. He’s worked on the LHA, LPD and NSC programs but has spent most of his time on the DDG Program.
Patrick told us it’s an honor for him to help build a ship named after someone who loved his country and gave his life to protect his fellow Marines.
He’s also knows that the work he does every day does matters. He said: “It’s just like if you go to an ant pile. If everyone pulls together, you can move a lot.” Patrick, would you please stand and be recognized?
Kristen McGee came to Ingalls when she was 22 years old. She was nervous because she had never been in an environment like this, but she learned her way around pretty quickly. She graduated from the Apprentice School in 2014 and now leads a Pipe Department crew working on this ship. One of the highlights of her career—so far—was serving on a team that identified and improved safety conditions in the shipyard.
She invokes Ralph Johnson’s sacrifice when she talks about the importance of safety and how it guides the work she and her crew do every day. “To continue to be here is a privilege for us,” she said. “It’s our job as shipbuilders to provide a quality ship to make sure our Sailors and Marines stay safe out at sea.”
Kristen is here with us today. Kristen, would you please stand and be recognized?
Patrick and Kristen are just two examples of the more than 11,000 men and women who work at Ingalls—many of whom are here today.
Would ALL of our fellow shipbuilders please stand and be recognized?
Throughout today’s ceremony, and long after you leave, remember: Ralph Johnson wasn’t an admiral, he wasn’t a general and he wasn’t the President. He was a 19-year-old private first class. What he did that day mattered. He made a difference. And the ship you see behind me, named in his honor, will make a difference. Just like the talented men and women of Ingalls who are building her. And the brave men and women of our U.S. Navy who will serve in her.
May God bless you. And may God Bless America. Thank you.