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Ingalls Shipbuilding christens 34th Aegis-class destroyer

Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi, celebrated the christening of U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG 123) on Saturday, April 24, 2021. DDG 123 is the 34th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer built by Ingalls Shipbuilding.

HUNTINGTON INGALLS INDUSTRIES/FACEBOOK

By WARREN KULO | GulfLive | Published: April 27, 2021

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (Tribune News Service) — Ingalls Shipbuilding celebrated the christening of its 34th Aegis-class destroyer with a limited capacity christening ceremony Saturday evening at the Pascagoula shipyard.

The christening of Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG 123) was originally scheduled for 2020, but was postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Brian Cuccias, who recently retired as Ingalls’ president, returned to host the event.

“I am honored to host this christening and give a final salute to the hardworking men and women who build freedom in this shipyard every day,” Cuccias said. “Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee’s distinguished legacy will remain steadfast with the christening of this great ship, as will the unparalleled craftsmanship of the men and women of Ingalls Shipbuilding.”

Cuccias’ successor, Kari Wilkinson, spoke to the importance of the shipyard’s work in her first christening as Ingalls’ top officer.

“The christening of Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee is a significant milestone that brings our 34th destroyer one step closer to being introduced into the fleet,” Wilkinson said. “In these ever-changing times, the significance of what we do has never been more important.

“We are exceedingly proud of our shipbuilders for their tenacity and perseverance, and look forward to continuing Ingalls’ legacy of building quality ships with respect and pride.”

DDG 123 is named to honor Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee, the first woman to receive the Navy Cross. Higbee joined the Navy in October 1908 as part of the newly established Navy Nurse Corps, a group of women who would become known as “The Sacred Twenty,” and became the second superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps in January 1911.

Former Mississippi governor and U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus was the keynote speaker.

“This christening is a signal event in the life of a warship deeply engrained in naval tradition when a ship officially bears the name it will carry during its time in the fleet,” Mabus said. “The story and the legacy of Lenah Higbee, and what she represents, will live on for decades around the world through this ship’s voyages and through the lives of the crew who sail aboard her.”

Louisa Dixon, Virginia Munford and Pickett Wilson — three women who played significant roles during Mabus’ term as governor — served as ship’s sponsors. Also on hand for the christening was Rear Adm. Cynthia Kuehner, Commander of Naval Forces Support Command.

“I know that USS Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee will protect and defend our nation with the same zeal, courage and valiant resolve of the Navy nurse for whom she is named,” Kuehner said.

“Superintendent Higbee’s legacy is a heroic account of a fearless pioneer, a leader among men and women, an advocate and an agent for necessary change, a visionary, a teacher, a scholar, a scientist, an author, an innovator, a strategist. A Navy nurse.”

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