First lady Michelle Obama was in Connecticut Saturday to help the Navy commission its newest and most-advanced fast attack submarine, the USS Illinois.
The first lady is an Illinois native and the submarine’s sponsor, and she has participated in the keel laying and christening of the 13th Virgina-class vessel.
On Saturday, she praised the submarine’s crew for its hard work, highlighted the sacrifice military families make, and offered praise to the men and women who built the $2.7 billion boat.
“Two years ago … this boat was in four components spread over three states,” Obama told about 2,500 people gathered on a pier at the Naval Submarine Base New London. “Today it’s the most advanced ship in the Navy, a ship that’s as complicated to operate as the space shuttle, a ship that can carry out any kind of critical mission from search and rescue to scientific research.”
She said she was “beyond proud” to be associated with the ship and its crew, and called them “the very definition of excellence.”
“Thank you for giving me the incredible privilege of being associated with you and with your families and with the Illinois for the rest of my life,” she said. “I will continue to keep you in my prayers every single day and keep you in my thoughts, and know that you have a sponsor that cares deeply.”
As sponsor, it was Obama’s job to give the Illinois’ crew its first order: “Officers and crew of the USS Illinois, man our ship and bring her to life.” And with that the sub’s 132 crew members ran aboard as a Navy band played “Anchors Aweigh.”
The USS Illinois, SSN 786, will remain at Groton for about a year as it undergoes a shakedown by its crew and staff from nearby Electric Boat, which did the final assembly of the ship.
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