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Guided Missile Destroyer Delbert D. Black Joins the Fleet

by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel C. Coxwest
25 September 2020

The U.S. Navy will commission the guided missile destroyer USS Delbert D. Black (DDG 119) Sept. 26 in Port Canaveral.

VIDEO | 03:30 | "A Sailor's Sailor": Delbert Black legacy carries on with DDG 119 Commission Video by Matthew Callahan

Delbert D. Black is configured as a Flight IIA destroyer, capable of power projection, forward presence and escort operations at sea in support of Low Intensity Conflict/Coastal and Littoral Offshore Warfare as well as open ocean conflict. The destroyer will be equipped with the Navy’s Aegis Combat System, the world’s foremost integrated naval weapon. 

The ship’s namesake is Master Chief Petty Officer Delbert D. Black, the Navy’s first ever Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON), the highest ranking position for enlisted personnel. MCPON Black was born in Oklahoma and joined the Navy in 1941. Black began his career as a Gunner’s Mate before obtaining the title of MCPON and would go on to serve 30 years in the Navy.

During his time serving in the Navy, MCPON Black met his wife, Ima Black, who was also in serving in the Navy as a Storekeeper 1st Class, at a basketball game.

“As I was sitting in the stands with my girlfriends I whispered to them as I looked down at the basketball court, I like number 13,” said Ima Black. “Because he had a shipmate that went to him and told him, he said, ‘Hey, do you know that blonde that works over the ship’s store?’ Of course he told him what I said and he came over and looked me up. It was perhaps a year late that we were married and we were married for 50 years.”

On January 13, 1967 the Secretary of the Navy announced that Master Chief Gunner’s Mate (GMCM) Delbert D. Black would be appointed to the position of MCPON, making him the first Sailor to assume that rank and title.

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith discussed the importance of having a Navy vessel named after MCPON Black.

“It’s significant because it’s a formal recognition of the position in a way that’s unique,” said Smith. “Naming a ship after him, it’s a way of really saying just how important this position really is in a way that nothing else is ever really done. The exploits that Delbert Black has to his credit is that he was the MCPON and naming a ship after him is a way of recognizing that feat.”

The legacy that MCPON Black has created will now be able to live on through the crew of the ship that carries his namesake.

“The reason that we still have this office is because of the legacy of the folks that have been in this office has been such, it’s never been easy and there’s never been an easy time,” said Smith.

Following the commissioning the USS Delbert D. Black will transit to her new homeport at Naval Station Mayport, Florida.