DDG 58 Laboon
The Laboon was commissioned on March 18, 1995. The mission of Laboon is to be prepared to conduct prompt, sustained combat operations at sea, in support of national policy. She is equipped to operate in a high-density, multi-threat environment as an integral member of a carrier battle group or Surface Action Group (SAG). In addition to her own self-defense capabilities in Anti-Air Warfare (AAW), Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASUW), Laboon can effectively provide local area protection to the battle group, SAG, and other ships.
The USS Laboon arrived off the coast of Yugoslavia in support of NATO Exercise Dynamic Response 98. The ship participated in Exercise Dynamic Response 98 with the USS Wasp (LHD 1) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), which includes USS Portland (LSD 37), and USS Trenton (LPD 14). Two Italian navy amphibious ships also participated in the exercise.
The USS Laboon launched Tomahawk missiles to attack selected air defense targets in Iraq on Sept 3, 1996. The Laboon thus became the first Arleigh Burke class destroyer to engage in combat. During its 1996 deployment to the Persian Gulf, the ship also conducted intercept operations to help stem the flow of U.N. embargoed goods into and out of Iraq. Laboon conducted 19 queries, 17 boardings and diverted one vessel found to be in violation of the U.N. embargo. The ship's participation in Exercise Rugged Nautilus and Neon Falcon provided training to allies in the Arabian Gulf
USS Laboon's (DDG 58) four, 200-ton R114 centrifugal air conditioning plants were converted to operate with HFC-236fa during her availability, which ended January 12, 2001. The HFC-236fa conversion program brings with it a much more complex and labor-intensive evolution than the HFC-134a program. While the 134a program converts reciprocating air conditioning, typically under 100-ton capacity, and refrigeration units, typically under 5-ton capacity; the HFC-236fa program converts centrifugal air conditioning units that start at the 125-ton range.
This ship's coat of arms is highly symbolic of the ship's namesake Captain John Francis Laboon and his heroism, loyalty and devotion to duty. The shield, in Navy blue and gold, represents the sea, and excellence highlighting Chaplain LABOON's dedicated naval service. The color white signifies integrity and purity of purpose. The quartered shield suggests a cross reflecting the chaplain's mission. The upright trident symbolizes sea prowess and highlights the ship's vertical launch capabilities with the three tines representing Anti-Submarine, Anti-Surface and Anti-Air Warfare. The trident, with its bottom spike pointing to the ocean depths, also represents Chaplain Laboon's service as a submariner both as a line officer and a chaplain.
The foundation of the crest is a life preserver which symbolizes Chaplain Laboon's heroic rescue of the downed fighter pilot. The preserver's straps which are red, reflect courage and sacrifice and denote his service with the Marines in Vietnam. The star commemorates the Chaplain's Silver Star and also represents his five successful submarine combat patrols. The wreath of laurel is emblematic of honor and accomplishment.
LABOON's motto "WITHOUT FEAR" is emblazoned in white on a red scroll underneath the shield. Just as Captain John Francis Laboon showed no fear in rescuing the downed aviator, LABOON meets all challenges, milestones and obstacles "WITHOUT FEAR"
John Francis Laboon Jr.
In the words of Cardinal John O'Connor, Father Jake was "a man who treated a seaman as respectfully as he treated an admiral." He constantly worked to improve living conditions, and address the needs of officers, enlisted personnel, and their families. "Everyone was sacred in his eyes - a person of priceless worth."
Born in Pittsburgh on 11 April 1921, Father Jake attended Carnegie Technical Institute for one year after high school. In 1949, he entered the Naval Academy, where he excelled in both athletics and academics. In 1942, he was a member of the All-East Football Team, and in 1943, "jumped ship" to Lacrosse, where he was selected for the Intercollegiate National Championship Navy Lacrosse Team, defenseman on the All-American Lacrosse Squad, and participated in the North-South All-Star game. He also served as President of the Newman Club, a Catholic support group.
After accelerated graduation in 1943, he trained as a submarine officer in New London, Connecticut, and upon completion, was assigned to USS PETO (SS 267). During his tour, Father Laboon served as Communications Officer, Gunnery and Torpedo Officer, and Executive Officer. Surviving numerous war patrols in the Western Pacific, Lieutenant Junior Grade laboon was awarded the Silver Star for his heroic actions on PETO's tenth war patrol.
The actions for which Father Jake was awarded the Silver Star, are indeed extraordinary. Following pick-up of a downed American pilot near the Island of Honshu, the crew was searching for his "wingman." The second aviator was soon spotted, but the water was shallow and most certainly mined, preventing the PETO from maneuvering closer. To make matters worse, they were under intense enemy fire from a Japanese shore battery. The Commander called for a volunteer, and without hesitation, LTJG Laboon dove off the sub. Swimming throughout the mined waters, he rescued the pilot. This unselfish act underscored Father Jake's character, and set the tone for how he lived his life...an inspiration, a true hero.
Lieutenant Laboon resigned from Naval service shortly after the end of World War II, and entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) on 31 October 1946. On 17 July 1956, Father Jake was ordained a Jesuit Priest at Woodstock, Maryland.
Father Jake then applied for a commission in the U.S. Naval Reserve Chaplain Corps in February 1957, and in September 1958 was recalled to active duty. Over the course of the next 22 years, Father Jake served in various duty stations around the world, including Alaska, Hawaii, Japan, and Vietnam. While in Vietnam, he was awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" for his fearless actions as battlefield Chaplain with the 3rd Marine Division in April 1969.
Other notable milestones in a truly distinguished career, include the honor of nomination for promotion to the rank of Admiral, and service as Chief of Chaplains. The Polaris Submarine Program was also blessed with having Father Jake as its first chaplain. The U.S. Naval Academy was likewise honored with his service as Senior Catholic Chaplain. On 31 October 1980, Captain Laboon retired as Fleet Chaplain, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
After retirement from the Navy, Father Laboon returned to Annapolis to oversee the construction of a Jesuit-retreat facility, Manresa-on- Severn, which was within view of the U.S. Naval Academy he so loved. His final assignment was pastor of St. Alphonsus Rodriquez Church in Woodstock, Maryland. He served faithfully until his death on 1 August 1988, exactly 28 years after his beloved PETO was struck from the Navy list of commissioned ships.
Throughout a lifetime of service to God and country, Father Jake was an extraordinary example of dedication to Sailors and Marines everywhere. His genuine interest and concern for all his shipmates made him the most widely known and respected Roman Catholic Chaplain in the U.S. Fleet. Father Jake's fearless nature, compassion, and determined sense of pride will be reflected in the officers and crew of the ship which bears his name, the USS LABOON (DDG 58).
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