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First Lady Michelle Obama will be the sponsor for the future USS Illinois, a new Virginia-class submarine currently under construction at Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus invited Obama to serve as the sponsor for the attack submarine named after her home state.
The Illinois (SSN 786) is expected to join the fleet in late 2015. EB in Groton and Newport News in Virginia build the Virginia-class submarines under a teaming agreement.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to serve as sponsor of the USS Illinois,” Obama said. “I’m always inspired by the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the Navy, as well as the families who support them. This submarine is a tribute to the strength, courage and determination that our Navy families exhibit every day.”
As the sponsor, Obama will establish a special link to Illinois, the crew and their families.
“Naval tradition holds that a sponsor’s spirit and presence guide the ship and her crew throughout the life of the ship,” Mabus said. “Illinois and her crew are blessed to have such a wonderful sponsor.”
Other first ladies have sponsored submarines. Laura Bush is the USS Texas’ (SSN 775) sponsor and christened it in 2004. Hillary Clinton is USS Columbia’s (SSN 771) sponsor and christened it in 1994. Obama also serves as the sponsor for the recently commissioned Coast Guard Cutter Stratton, based in Alameda, Calif.