Welcomed with aloha – Future USS John Finn (DDG113) arrives in Pearl Harbor

The Navy’s newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the future USS John Finn (DDG 113) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, July 10, in preparation for its commissioning ceremony on July 15. Photo by MC3 Justin R. Pacheco

Don Robbins

Editor, Ho’okele

The Navy’s newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the future USS John Finn (DDG 113) will be commissioned at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 15 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam’s Pier Kilo 10.

The commissioning ceremony is by invitation only. A live stream video will also be available at www.dvidshub.net/webcast/11834 for those unable to attend.

Adm. Harry Harris, Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Command, will deliver the commissioning ceremony’s principal address. Laura Stavridis, the wife of retired Adm. James Stavridis, the former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, will serve as sponsor of the ship. The ceremony will be highlighted by a Navy tradition when Laura Stavridis will give the first order to “man our ship and bring her to life!”

A local canoe club escorted the USS John Finn to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, July 10. Photo by Stephanie Mitchell

The ship’s namesake, John Finn, is a Medal of Honor recipient who Adm. Chester Nimitz said displayed “magnificent courage in the face of almost certain death” during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Finn, a chief aviation ordnanceman, used a machine gun at the former Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Station to fire at Japanese aircraft for two hours during the attack. He remained on duty for 18 hours despite receiving as many as 21 wounds.

Finn retired as a lieutenant in 1956 and lived to be 100 before passing in 2010. At the time of his death, he was the last living Medal of Honor recipient from the Pearl Harbor attack.

USS John Finn is the 63rd Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer and the first of the DDG 51 Flight IIA restart ships. Cmdr. Michael Wagner, a native of Minnesota, is the commanding officer of the USS John Finn and leads the core crew of 350 officers and enlisted personnel.

Lt. Tyler Barker, communications officer and public affairs officer/commissioning coordinator for USS John Finn, was able to see the ship come in from the pier earlier this week.

“It was an awesome sight to see the Navy’s 63rd Ar-leigh Burke-class destroyer moor at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam with the keiki hula group performing a traditional hula and a lei proudly displayed from the ship’s bow,” Barker said.

“USS John Finn is named for a true American hero, and it is fitting that we have the honor of commissioning the ship on the island where then-Chief Finn’s actions led to him receiving World War II’s first Medal of Honor.”

Barker reflected on the ship’s travels in the last month, from Pascagoula, Mississippi, through the Panama Canal to its homeport of San Diego and Hawaii for the commissioning ceremony.

“We’ve had an outstanding experience coming together as an operational crew, and all Sailors, friends, and family are incredibly excited about officially bringing our ship to the fleet. We are honored to serve on a ship with such a deserving namesake,” he said.

Fire Controlman 2nd Class Brenda Ezenwaokpala, another crew member of the USS John Finn, shared her thoughts.

“My first impression pulling into Pearl Harbor was that it was breathtaking. To truly understand that we were coming back to a place no longer marred by tragedy, and bring the rebirth of an American hero.”

The Navy’s newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the future USS John Finn (DDG 113) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Illustration and photos by MC3 Justin R. Pacheco

Ezenwaokpala said she was impressed by the opportunity to experience the combination of amazing scenery and historical significance in Pearl Harbor.

“It is humbling. I am just one Sailor in the big picture of bringing the USS John Finn to life. Everyone has gone above and beyond, especially the locals. They have been extremely helpful, cordial and welcoming,” Ezenwaokpala added.

Stephanie Mitchell of the Kamaha‘o Canoe Club said that her canoe club had the privilege of escorting the newest Navy missile destroyer into Pearl Harbor to be commissioned here in Hawaii.

Mitchell is also a nurse at Tripler Army Medical Hospital.

“There are a few moments in your lifetime when you feel honored and humbled to be a part of something so much bigger than yourself,” Mitchell said.

The 9,140-ton Finn was built by Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

The ship is 509 feet in length, has a beam of 66 feet, and a navigational draft of 31 feet.

The ship uses four LM2500 GE Marine Gas Turbines and two propellers to speeds up to 31 knots.

USS John Finn will be homeported at Naval Base San Diego, California.

For more information, visit http://johnfinncommissioning.org/.

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