KITSAP COUNTY MILITARY APPRECIATION DAY: Washington state gets its third namesake Navy vessel

The Virginia-class submarine USS Washington (SSN 787) was christened at 11 a.m. March 5, 2016 at Newport News Shipbuilding.

Special guests and sailors pose at the christening of the USS Washington in January. The sub will be based in Hawaii.

Editor’s note: This story appeared in Sound Publishing’s special section, Military Appreciation Day 2016, edited by Leslie Kelly. Kitsap County’s Military Appreciation Day celebration is planned for April 16 in the Kitsap Pavilion  at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds. The event is free and open to the public.

The Virginia-class submarine USS Washington (SSN 787) was christened at 11 a.m. March 5, 2016 at Newport News Shipbuilding.

Among those attending was Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent.

“It was so exciting to be part of this christening with the logo, motto and colors depicting everything about the ‘Evergreen State,’ ” Lent said.

About 20 delegates from Washington traveled to Newport News for the event. Gov. Jay Inslee also attended.

“I was interviewed by Fox News, shared the spotlight with the commanders and full crew of the Sub as well as our own Adm. James Caldwell, director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program,” Lent said. Caldwell was previously commander of Group Nine at Bangor.

“The three-mile-long shipyard was dramatic, seeing the entire submarine hoisted above all of us and knowing there were subs in bays just like this one,” she said.

Five submarines will be built for $18 million during the next 10 years. The actual launch of the Washington will take place in September and the commissioning is scheduled for Jan. 7, 2017. It will be based in Hawaii when in full operation.

“The pride I felt, along with the other 3,000 attendees, was overwhelming,” Lent said, noting most attending were crew assigned to that shipyard.

“My city’s current USS Bremerton (SSN 698) was adopted in 2010 by Bremerton, PSNBA and the Navy League and is stationed in Pearl Harbor — where the Washington will be stationed — and is slated for decommissioning in 2019. So you must imagine this new sub will become our namesake for the next 30 to 40 years.

“I am proud to represent my city and the strong relationship we have with the Navy and I respect the mission of our military and defense sector in our state and across the nation.”

Others attending were representatives of the Bremerton-Olympic Peninsula Navy League, Submariners League, Jorgensen Forge, PSNBA, and retired captains and rear admirals.

The civilian sponsor of the ship also spoke about the event.

“The christening of the future USS Washington brings this technological marvel one step closer to joining the fleet where it will serve as a crucial piece of the finest expeditionary fighting force the world has ever known,” Elisabeth Mabus said.

“Submarines like the Washington, and all of our platforms, are essential to our sailors and Marines’ ability to do their jobs. Our ships, and those who build them, enable our Navy and Marine Corps to maintain a global presence and protect America. This ceremony is a celebration of not only a submarine, but also those who worked to build it … the backbone of our ability to protect our nation … our shipbuilders.”

Also at the christening was Rear Adm. Michael Sharp of Bainbridge Island, who served as chairman of the christening committee.

“It was a honor to be a part of the ship’s christening,” said Sharp, who had a decorated Navy career and served as commanding officer of the USS San Francisco. “It was a great event to honor great Americans who build these ships.”

Historically, Sharp said, ships were christened while in water and “everyone remembers the smashing of the champagne bottles,” he said. “But ships are too big for that now.”

The Washington is a Virginia-class fast attack submarine and the third U.S. Navy ship named for the State of Washington, the 42nd state of the Union. The crest design includes symbols, colors, and themes inspired by the state, the Pacific Northwest, and previous warships named Washington.

The sub is under construction at Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia and is scheduled to join the fleet in the summer of 2016. She is the 14th Virginia-class submarine.

When delivered, she will be the most technologically advanced submarine in service, as well as the least expensive; her design incorporates significant innovations to reduce acquisition costs over earlier ships of the class without impacting mission capabilities.

The ship’s crest blend Washington State icons Mount Rainier, the Seattle skyline, evergreen trees; and silhouettes of the previous two Washingtons. The central image is the submarine, surging forth from the waters of the Puget Sound, emblazoned with a paint scheme reminiscent of Native American art depictions of an Orca whale, the state’s official marine mammal.

Along the top of the state border, six hollow stars represent previous naval vessels named for George Washington and two solid gold stars representing the ships named for the state.  At the bottom, submarine dolphins, one silver and one gold to represent the enlisted and officer warfare insignia. They sit atop a block of battleship armor plating on which is printed the ship’s name and motto, “Preserving Peace, Prepared for War.”

The motto is derived from a quote from the state’s namesake, George Washington, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.”

Set behind the state is a ring adorned with the official state tartan, as adopted in 1991 for the state’s centennial. The color scheme of the tartan is a green background for the rich forests of “The Evergreen State,” with perpendicular bands of contrasting colors symbolic of the features of the state: blue (for the lakes, rivers and ocean), white (for the snow-capped mountains), red (for the apple and cherry crops), yellow (for the wheat and grain crops), and black (for the eruption of Mount St. Helens).

Washington is one of 14 next-generation attack submarines, the Virginia class. The Virginia class submarines will provide the Navy with the capabilities required to maintain the nation’s undersea supremacy well into the 21st century.

SSN 787 will be 7,800-tons and 377 feet in length with a beam of 34 feet. It will operate at more than 25 knots submerged. Her 134-member crew will be able to launch up to 12 Tomahawk land-attack missiles and Mark 48 advanced capability torpedoes.

Mabus, sponsor of Virginia-class submarine Washington, is the daughter of Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. A ship’s sponsor, by tradition, is a female civilian who is chosen by the Secretary of the Navy to “sponsor” a ship. The sponsor is technically considered a permanent member of the ship’s crew and is expected to give a part of her personality to the ship, as well as advocate for its continued service and well-being.

Its command: Cmdr. Jason Schneider, commanding officer; Lt.Cmdr. Brian M. Rhoades, executive officer; ITSCM(SS) Adam Burchette, chief of the boat.

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