- The Washington Times
Sunday, September 27, 2020

A senior sailor who served as the first master chief petty officer of the Navy and spent his career advocating for the service’s enlisted personnel is the namesake of the Navy’s newest guided missile destroyer.

The USS Delbert D. Black (DDG 119) was commissioned Saturday at Port Canaveral, Fla. The ceremony was a private event due to health and safety concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, Navy officials said.

“The Navy has always been and will always be indelibly influenced by the leadership of our senior enlisted sailors epitomized by Delbert Black,” Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite said in a statement. “They are the ones who teach both our junior enlisted as well as our junior officers what it means to lead.”

He spent more than 20 years aboard ships out of a 30-year Navy career and was aboard the battleship USS Maryland when it was damaged by Japanese bombs in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.

In January 1967, Master Chief Black was named the first master chief petty officer of the Navy. Secretary Braithwaite called him “one of the most influential master chiefs ever to wear three stars.”

“This is the first ship to honor a senior enlisted leader in such a way for their contributions in this realm,” said Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell L. Smith, the 15th sailor to hold the position. “It represents a significant milestone achievement that recognizes both the responsibility of the position to the Navy as well as the tremendous accountability to those enlisted sailors we primarily provide advocacy for.”

Master Chief Black retired from the Navy in 1971. He died in March 2000 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The ship, which will be based in Mayport, Fla., had been scheduled for commissioning last year until it was damaged in a pierside accident after being struck by a barge. The repair bill was estimated at about $13 million.

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