Builders proud of USS John Finn (DDG 113) construction

Freddie O’Brien
Master shipbuilder

Don Robbins

Ho‘okele Editor

For master shipbuilder Freddie O’Brien, the commissioning of the guided-missile destroyer USS John Finn (DDG 113) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam July 15 marked the culmination of a labor of love.

Since 2010, O’Brien has worked as the ship program manager for the USS John Finn, and in that position he was the person responsible for the overall actual construction of USS John Finn in Pascagoula, Mississippi. O’Brien is employed by Huntington Ingalls Industries, the company that built USS John Finn.

“It was an emotional feeling because I spent seven years of a 45-year career on that ship,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien and other shipbuilders from the company who worked on DDG 113 attended the commissioning events to watch the ship they created come to life.

O’Brien said that when it comes to building ships there is a lot of work involved, from launching the ship intact, doing sea trials and delivery. For example, the ship spent three days in the Gulf of Mexico for testing of the ship’s main propulsion system and other ship systems.

The effort of creating a U.S. Navy ship involves the engineering, production and business side of the company, O’Brien said.

USS John Finn (DDG 113) undergoes sea trials. Photo courtesy of Huntington Ingalls Industries

“I’ve spent two-thirds of my life doing that. Shipbuilding is not easy.”

There have been tremendous changes through the years in the business of shipbuilding, in areas such as computers and welding, according to O’Brien.

“You still have the human element, but technology, testing and construction have changed,” he said.

O’Brien said he and his wife, Jackie, arrived a week early to Oahu for the commissioning.

“We enjoyed it. We came early for the 17th anniversary of our wedding. It is the same day as the commissioning,” O’Brien said.

“Our folks take a lot of pride in what they do and this is the 29th DDG we have built for the U.S. Navy,” said Bill Glenn, public affairs spokesman for Huntington Ingalls Industries.

“Workers on the shipyard represent people from a lot of the Gulf Coast states,” O’Brien said.

The ship was named after Chief Aviation Ordnanceman John Finn, was World War II’s first Medal of Honor recipient who Adm. Chester Nimitz said displayed, “magnificent courage in the face of certain death” during the attack on Pearl Harbor and other Oahu military targets in 1941. Finn manned a .50-caliber machine gun while under heavy enemy machine gun fire. Although wounded, he continued to fight until ordered to vacate his post to seek medical attention. Following first aid treatment, he returned to action and led the charge to rearm aircraft returning from missions.

O’Brien said he feels another sense of pride about the ship’s namesake.

“John Finn was an Irishman and I’m an Irishman,” O’Brien said.

In addition, O’Brien noted that his own son, Freddie O’Brien II was stationed at Pearl Harbor during a career in the Navy during the late 1990s.

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Category: News