U.S. Navy Commissions Arleigh Burke-Class Destroyer Frank E. Petersen, Jr. (DDG 121)

The U.S. Navy commissioned its newest Arleigh Burke-class (Flight-IIA) destroyer USS Frank E. Petersen, Jr. (DDG 121), May 14 in Charleston, South Carolina.

CHARLESTON, SC—Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro attended the ceremony. He began by thanking the Petersen family for their lifetime of service to the nation. “All of us join you in honoring Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr.” Del Toro also recognized the plank owners for bringing the ship to life.

Frank E. Petersen, Jr. (USMC photo)

The principal speaker was The Honorable Carlos Campbell, Naval aviator and former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, who served alongside Petersen and relayed stories exemplifying the general’s strength and dedication. Recalling Petersen’s ethic, Campbell said “He received a frag wound, he was treated in the field, and returned to combat.”

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday also attended the ceremony. General David Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, also attended the ceremony. “General Petersen was a man of many firsts,” said Berger. “There’s a saying that ships take on the characteristics of their namesakes, and if that’s true, then God help any adversary to ever confronts the Frank E. Petersen, Jr.”

Ms. Gayle Petersen, Lt. Gen. Petersen’s daughter, expressed thanks on behalf of her family and made a special recognition. “We would not be having this ceremony today if not for a gentleman named Robert Adams. When my dad was shot down in Vietnam he was rescued by Robert Adams.” Gayle continued, “I would like to thank all who had a hand in building this ship, from stem to stern.”

Guest speakers for the event included The Honorable Nancy Mace, U.S Rep. from South Carolina’s 1st District; The Honorable John Tecklenberg, Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina; Mr. George Nungesser, Vice President of Program Management, Ingalls Shipbuilding.

The ship’s sponsors are Mrs. D’Arcy Ann Neller, wife of former Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert “Bob” Neller, USMC (Ret.), and the late Dr. Alicia J. Petersen, Lt. Gen. Petersen’s wife at the time of his passing in 2015. Dr. Petersen passed away in September 2021. Both sponsors participated in the keel laying, mast stepping, and christening ceremonies.

Mrs. Neller thanked the families. “Our service members can’t do what they do without you and your love and support. To the officers and crew. A ship without a crew is like a body without blood. You will all make this ship come alive.” She continued. “The namesake of this ship was a warrior. He always went to the sound of the guns; he was always prepared and smart about the risks he took. You all need to be the same. Always be prepared. Work hard and when the time comes, you will be ready to go into the jaw of the tiger.”

During the ceremony, USS Frank E. Petersen’s commanding officer Cmdr. Daniel Hancock, reported the ship ready. Assisted by Lt. Gen. Petersen’s daughters, Gayle Petersen, Dana Petersen Moore, Lindsay Pulliam, and Monique Petersen, Mrs. Neller gave the traditional order to “Man our ship and bring her to life!”​

U.S. Navy photo from the commissioning ceremony of the newest Arleigh Burke-class destroyer

“Our incredible crew takes a great deal of pride in their work. I can find no better warrior namesake than General Frank E. Petersen Jr. None of us who know his story have ever forgotten that we are the heirs of that powerful legacy, and like the General, we have committed ourselves to owning the fight and carrying his torch proudly forward,” said Hancock. “I wish to express gratitude and pride. It is my greatest professional honor to serve with each of my crew. I am proud beyond measure. “

Lt. Gen. Petersen continues a family legacy of service begun by his great grandfather. Private Archibald (Archie) Charles McKinney enlisted in 1863 and served in the Mass 55th Company E during the Civil War. McKinney’s trip home included traveling aboard a steamship, disembarking at the Port of Charleston.​

Frank E. Petersen, Jr's first star
Frank E. Petersen, Jr. receives his first star. (USMC photo)

The future USS Frank E. Petersen, Jr. honors Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. (USMC Ret.). Petersen was the first black USMC aviator and the first black Marine to become a three-star general. Petersen served two combat tours, Korea in 1953 and Vietnam in 1968. He flew more than 350 combat missions and had over 4,000 hours in various fighter and attack aircraft. Petersen passed away in Aug. 2015 at the age of 83.

Retiring in 1988 after 38 years of service, Petersen’s awards included the Defense Superior Service Medal; Legion of Merit with Combat “V”; Distinguished Flying Cross; Purple Heart; Meritorious Service Medal; Air Medal; Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V;” and the Air Force Commendation Medal.

— Source: U.S. Navy press release


Green Knights VMFA-121
Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 | VMFA-121 ‘Green Knights’ (USMC photo)
The men and women who fly the F-35B (above) are fighter pilots standing on the shoulders of the late Lieutenant General Frank E. Petersen, Jr. (USMC Ret) and other great Naval Aviators.
The F-35B Lightning II is the Marine Corps variant of the Joint Strike Fighter featuring a vertical lift fan and pivoting engine nozzle for vertical landings and short takeoffs on land or at sea.

Top Gun: Petersen

Meet the Corps’ New CIO

PENTAGON — On 10 April 2018, the Defense Department announced U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Lorna M. Mahlock’s  nomination for appointment to the rank of Brigadier General.  Mahlock was serving as the deputy director of Operations, Plans, Policies, and Operations Directorate, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, Washington, District of Columbia.

Today, Brigadier General (select) Lorna Mahlock is the Director, Command, Control, Communications and Computers (C4) and Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the U.S. Marine Corps.  She pins on her first star early August 2018.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, she immigrated to Brooklyn, New York and enlisted in the Marine Corps. She was selected for the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program, graduated from Marquette University and was commissioned in December 1991.

usmc-adDesignated as an Air Traffic Control Officer, she earned certifications as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Tower Local Controller and a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Instructor.   She has commanded and led at various levels globally and in combat including but not limited to Air Traffic Control Detachment Commander; Executive Officer – 1st Stinger Battery; Director – Marine Corps Instructional Management School; Air Control Officer – G3 Future Operations; Company Commander – Operation SOUTHERN WATCH and IRAQI FREEDOM 01; Operations and Executive Officer – IRAQI FREEDOM 02; Director – Marine Air Command and Control System Experimental; Commanding Officer – IRAQI FREEDOM 8; Information Management Officer; J3 Land Operations Lead and Division Executive Officer, Headquarters European Command; Marine Corps Office of Legislative Affairs and Assistant Chief of Staff G6.

She holds a Masters Degree in Adult and Higher Education from the University of Oklahoma at Norman; a Masters in National Security and Strategic Studies with distinction from the Naval Post Graduate School, Newport, Rhode Island; a Masters in Strategic Studies from the US Army War College and a Masters Certificate in Information Operations from the Naval Post Graduate School.  She also is a graduate of the United Kingdom Defense College Higher Command and Staff.

Source and photos: USMC

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