CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA, –
Having earned his plankowner certificate more than 20 years ago, one former Sailor thought about his time aboard the guided missile destroyer, USS Arleigh Burke (DDG51), when it pulled in for a port visit here, Veterans Day weekend.
The term plankowner dates to a time when wooden naval ships sailed the seas. As ships were being built, Sailors would choose wooden planks and nail them into place themselves. Upon the ship's decommissioning, the Sailors could retrieve their planks as mementoes from their time on board.
Timothy Reed became a USS Arleigh Burke plankowner serving aboard her from 1991-1993. Decades after the ships commissioning, Reed, now a police officer with the 628th Security Forces assigned to Naval Weapons station, reflects on his experience as a plank owner.
“I enlisted in the Navy August 2, 1990 and shipped out to Recruit Training Command (RTC) Orlando, Florida.” Reed said. “I was an undesignated seaman under a two year enlistment. While in boot camp, I received orders in a letter and mini poster signed by the Captain John Morgan, USS Arleigh Burke commanding officer. The letter said congratulations you’ve been selected to be a crew member of the first AEGIS class destroyer.”
The USS Arleigh Burke, the first ship of the AEGIS guided missile destroyer class, was commissioned on July 4, 1991. This ship was designed to take advantage of evolving technology while reducing ship construction costs.
“As a recruit about to graduate from training, you’re kind of like, what does this letter mean?” said Reed. “My recruit division commander (RDC) explained that the Arleigh Burke commanding officer could hand pick Sailors from boot camp to become plankowners and commissioning crew members. It was an outstanding feeling being selected, I had done well in training and Capt. Morgan noticed. Being selected is an honor I will always have.”
Even before the Arleigh Burke destroyer was completely built, Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force started the initial phases of testing. New systems, operated by fleet sailors ashore, were examined at land-based test facilities. The combat system test took place at the Combat System Engineering Development Site in Moorestown, New Jersey. The propulsion plant test occurred at the Gas Turbine Ship Land-Based Engineering Site in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. These test results supported the decision build this type of ship and limited production began.
The Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyers are warships designed to provide multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities. Destroyers can operate independently or as part of carrier strike groups, surface action groups, amphibious ready groups and underway replenishment groups.