The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58) takes an interesting approach in the Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19) environment for the world to visit the ship through a virtual ship tour video.
The video project is just one way the Navy continues to bridge the gap virtually through outreach to communities around the nation while social distancing and precautionary measures are in place due to COVID-19, which prevents travel for ship/port visits, Navy Weeks and Fleet Weeks.
This year is an opportunity to still honor the namesake and his family, as well as citizens in his hometown in a different way, especially during Memorial Day.
After the video’s exciting open, tour guide Lt. Robert Reichardt took the virtual tour group up to the foc’sle, or forward part of the ship, to show them around and explain that they are pierside at Naval Station Norfolk, the largest Naval Base in the world. The ship’s operations officer then informed the virtual audience about the ship’s 25th birthday and their namesake, as he led them around his ship.
The guided-missile destroyer is named for a Pittsburgh, Pa., native who left there to serve his country and became a true Naval hero.
“The ship is named for ‘Father Jake’ Laboon; that’s our namesake,” said Reichardt. “‘Father Jake’ did great things for the Chaplain Corps and the Navy as a whole.”
In short, he led a long life serving God and country.
After attending Carnegie Technical Institute (now Carnegie Mellon University), he was commissioned at the Naval Academy and served in submarines in World War II. During a Western Pacific patrol, while under intense enemy fire, he rescued a downed pilot from heavily-mined waters and was awarded the Silver Star. Shortly after the war, he left the Navy only to be called back to duty as a Chaplain and become “Father Jake.”
Reichardt also told the virtual audience about the guided-missile destroyer, its mission and purpose, how it was both the first and also the most recent destroyer to fire the Tomahawk missile. He and fellow tour guides led the audience around the ship, through the mess decks where the crew takes their meals, to the pilot house, where the ship is driven.
“Hi, I am Machinists Mate 2nd Class Samantha Beaudroux, from Louisiana, and I am the ship’s master helmsman,” said the tour guide there. “I am the only one onboard qualified to do what I do. I take this ship and I navigate it through safe waters.”
From the Pilot House, Reichardt traverses the ship past the boat deck, to the flight deck on the fantail, or back part of the ship, where the helicopters come and go. The tour is basically the same one he and the Laboon team give to visitors who travel from near and far to tour a Navy ship. With Memorial Day nearing, the tour guide and crew are glad to share the video, to creatively connect with those in Pittsburgh and across the nation. They take great pride in the ship’s rich history, always remembering those who served before them.
“It is important to at least virtually share the history of our namesake and other veterans on this holiday,” said Reichardt. “This Memorial Day, we again reflect on those who have shown unwavering commitment to serving our nation. Our motto is ‘Without Fear’ and the Laboon crew lives by that, as “Father Jake” so honorably did.
“We are elated to virtually share the Laboon legacy with people wherever they are, including online.”
That’s where the Navy will be, virtually commemorating, staying in touch but staying safe.