NEWPORT NEWS, March 5 2016 - It took two hits to break the bottle of American sparkling wine, but Elisabeth Mabus, the daughter of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, christened the submarine Washington in a ceremony Saturday in Newport News.
The ship is the 14th in the Virginia class of submarines and has been under construction since September 2011. Its keel was laid in November 2014.
Elisabeth Mabus is the sponsor of the ship, an honor given by the Navy secretary. She attends its milestones – the christening, the keel laying and the decommissioning – but also has a relationship with the ship and crew.
The submarine has a crew of 120 sailors, led by Cmdr. Jason Schneider.
Ray and Elisabeth Mabus spoke at the ceremony Saturday, along with other dignitaries and Navy officials. “This is one of the nicest, most emotional days I’ve had in the Navy,” the father said in an interview. “I have loved this young woman since the minute she was born and to watch her grow up and be the person she is today. This ship has a great sponsor.”
For his daughter, it’s a piece of the Navy special to her.
“I considered myself part of the Navy family since he was sworn in seven years ago, but this is my piece now, and I’m excited; long after he leaves office, I’m going to get to be a part of the ship’s life for 30, 35 years,” she said. “It’s a lot that I get to carry on with the Navy.”
One of the speakers Saturday was Vice Adm. Joseph Tofalo, commander of submarine forces. He thanked Elisabeth Mabus for being the sponsor and honored many others.“I too would like to recognize our amazing shipbuilders who make the Virginia class submarine the best submarine on the planet, and we need Washington to be just that, so that this crew can take her into harm’s way anywhere in the world,” he said.
The secretary described how the Washington is part of a fleet that’s finally growing after a decline following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. He noted that in the summer of 2014, the Navy signed the biggest contract in its history to buy 10 submarines at a cost of $18 billion. The Washington cost $2.7 billion to build.
The ship is the first U.S. naval vessel to be named for Washington state since the World War II-era battleship Washington was decommissioned in 1947. A delegation from the state was there for the ceremony.
Before Elisabeth Mabus broke the bottle on the submarine, she dipped it into a bucket of water from Washington’s Puget Sound.
Virginia-Pilot article by Robyn Sidersky