The United States Navy launched its newest ship, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, USS John Finn, on Saturday, providing what PACOM Commander Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. calls a “signal to allies and adversaries in the Pacific.”

In a speech given during a ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam marking the commissioning of the John Finn, and its addition to America’s Pacific Fleet, Harris explained that the United States is, and forever shall be, a Pacific Power, adding that America’s “future security and economic prosperity” are inextricably linked operations in the Asia-Pacific region.

“America is a Pacific nation, a Pacific leader and a Pacific power — always has been and always will be,” Harris said.

“We believe in peace through strength — smart power backed by hard power — and the ship’s hard power personified sends a clear signal to our friends and to our adversaries, that we will remain laser-focused on the Indo-Asia Pacific,” the admiral added.

Cmdr. Michael Wagner took control of the vessel, and 350-person crew, at the completion of the commissioning ceremony on Saturday.  Although the USS John Finn is one of many Arleigh Burke-class destroyers serving in the U.S. Navy, it is the very first to be designed and built from the ground up around the Aegis Baseline 9 weapon system, which will allow the Finn to conduct both air warfare and ballistic missile defense operations simultaneously.

“That means the John Finn brings both the saber and the shield to the fight,” Harris said. “American know-how to get her done — anytime and anywhere.”

According to Harris, the USS John Finn’s combat systems, combined with the crew comprised of some of the Navy’s finest sailors, “are powerful reminders of our readiness to fight tonight. This warship is the embodiment of America’s resolve to protect our homeland and defend our allies.”

The Pacific has become a hot-bed for military tensions in recent years, with China declaring its sovereignty over vast expanses of the South China Sea, which sees a huge amount of commercial traffic each year and houses large deposits of natural resources.  North Korea’s ballistic and nuclear weapons programs have also prompted an influx of U.S. led military activities near the Korean Peninsula, including the continued presence of at least one, but sometimes two, super carrier strike groups.

As a result, Harris says, we need the best military assets America has to offer in the region.

“In my opinion,” Harris said, “we can’t get our most advanced assets here fast enough.”

Those assets aren’t entirely provided by the Navy, Harris added, saying “we go back to the roots of not only America’s Navy but of our Marine Corps, our Army and Air Force as we take special note of what lies at the very core of the joint force, the continuing recognition … of who we are and what we value as military leaders — the absolute nature of accountability, the science of command and the art of leadership.”

The USS John Finn received its name from chief aviation ordnanceman Navy chief petty officer John Finn, who received the medal of honor for his incredible bravery during the attack on Pearl Harbor on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.  Finn manned a .50-caliber gun and continued the fight until the attacks ended, despite being wounded more than twenty times in the process.

Finn passed away at the age of 100 in 2010.  He was the recipient of the first Medal of Honor awarded during World War II.

“USS John Finn is about to join the Pacific Fleet and the PACOM joint team,” Harris said. “This ship and her crew are ready to sail into harm’s way and assume the critical mission of safeguarding our nation’s interests in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.”

“The ship’s name is fitting,” the admiral added, “because the best joint fighting force the world has ever seen exists today because of the men and women who did their duty, right here on this island, 75 years ago.”


Image courtesy of the Department of Defense