Friday, October 15, 1999

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Petty Officer Jason Phillips holds his son Brandon
for the first time as his wife, Carlena, watches.

Hawaii is homeport for
Navy’s newest destroyer

The USS O'Kane pulled into
Pearl Harbor today

By Gregg K. Kakesako
Star Bulletin


Navy Petty Officer Jason Phillips got his first glimpse of his 2-month-old son, Brandon Daniel, minutes after the Navy's newest destroyer, the USS O'Kane, tied up at Pearl Harbor this morning.

"We only found out that I was pregnant a week before he left for San Diego for training," said wife, Carlena. "I think he's only seen him one time and that was a picture when he was three days old."

Brandon was born Aug. 11 as the O'Kane, which will be one of four destroyers assigned to the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, was en route to Hawaii from Bath, Maine, where the ship was built at a cost of $900 million.

"It has taken a lot of work to get the ship up and running," said Jason Phillips, an eight-year-Navy veteran, "but we did it."

Phillips, a torpedoman, was part of the crew that prepared 504-foot warship for commissioning in Maine while his wife remained in Hawaii.

The O'Kane, named after World War II Medal of Honor winner Rear Adm. Richard O'Kane, will be commissioned Oct. 23 at 10 a.m. The Arleigh Burke destroyer, the 27th in its class, will be the second ship to be commissioned at Pearl Harbor. The guided missile cruiser USS Lake Erie was the first, in 1993.

Carlena Phillips was among the 70 spouses who waited with anticipation as the destroyer docked at Pier Sierra Nine while its crew, each sporting an orchid lei donated by the Navy League, stood at attention along the ship's rails.

More than 110 families of the O'Kane's crew of 26 officers and 292 enlisted sailors will make Hawaii their home for the next two to three years.

Scott Bibeau, whose wife Petty Officer Wendy Dixon is an electronics warfare specialist on the O'Kane, noted that the ship's schedule was altered several times because of the weather.

Ensign Jennifer Herron, O'Kane's spokeswoman, said the destroyer had to skirt around three hurricanes in the Atlantic and one storm off the coast of Mexico.

Terry Diak, the ship's ombudsman, said the majority of the ship's crew will be given time off this weekend to be with their families. Diak was pierside with her daughter, 10-year-old Rhiannon; and 7-year-old son, Nicholas.

"We have been working on this since August," said Diak, whose husband, Chief Petty Officer Joseph Diak, is a fire controlman on the O'Kane. "Everyone has a support system here. We have a phone tree to help to keep things together."

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