PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - It's a proud day in Pascagoula. The USS Gravely, the Navy's newest aegis destroyer, left Northrop Grumman shipyard Friday morning.
The men and women who helped build the vessel were at the dock to bid the ship farewell.
One longtime shipyard worker said the next best thing to wearing a military uniform, is having a hand in building one of these impressive war ships.
The Gravely is the 27th aegis destroyer on a contract to build 28 such vessels.
American patriotism and a pride of workmanship were abundant during the morning's launch. It was most impressive in dawn's early light.
"510 feet long, about 65 feet long, and carries a heck of a punch to the fight," said Commander Douglas Kunzman.
The DDG 107 is named for Samuel Gravely, a courageous African-American who helped break down color barriers in the 1940s Navy.
"The ship's motto is first to conquer and that's because Admiral Gravely was the first to conquer so many challenges in changing the way the Navy and this country thought about diversity," said Commander Kunzman.
Many of the sailors aboard the Gravely are young and excited to be a part of sea trials and pre-commissioning duties.
Joanna Mendez is a quartermaster from California.
"It's the first ship I've been on and it's pretty awesome begin here on a pre-comm ship. Eveything's brand new. So, I'm real excited to get underway," she said, smiling.
The past few weeks have been transition time, when the destroyer goes from the shipyard who built it, to the U.S. Navy which will own and direct it.
"It's a very proud day," said Artensie Sabino-Grace.
She is most proud of how the destroyer looks, since she served as paint foreman during the ship's construction.
" A feeling you can't explain. Because you know that you did something and it's going out to serve your country. And we're sending them out with a perfect, completed ship. And it looks outstanding," she said.
As the ship prepares to pull away, it's an exciting moment for crew members and bittersweet for the workers who invested several years of sweat and effort building the best ship possible.
"It's just an awesome, awesome feeling to see one of these sail away and know that it's going out to protect our freedom for this country," said electrical foreman, Steven Searcy.
Danny Givens served as Ship Program Manager, a job that oversees construction of the destroyer.
"This is one of the highlights when we get a ship we've almost birthed like our child. Now we see it leave. So, it's a great day for our company. Great day for the Navy," said Givens, "This ship right here will go in harm's way and we built it like our children are riding it. So, we're awfully proud today."
The USS Gravely is headed for Wilmington, North Carolina where it will be commissioned on November 20th. The ship's home port will be Norfolk, Virginia.