First Lady Michelle Obama described herself as "beyond proud" as she commissioned the U.S.S. Illinois on Saturday at Naval Sub Base New London. Obama is the personal sponsor of the Virginia Class sub, which finished construction at Electric Boat in Groton.
She previously visited Electric Boat for the laying of the keel and also for the christening, and she spoke of her long connection with the ship at this weekend’s ceremony.
"I have to say that this moment is a little bittersweet for me, because today marks our last event together, at least while I'm First Lady -- the end of a journey that started more than two years ago," she told the crew and their families.
Obama paid tribute particularly to military families, a favorite cause of hers during her time as First Lady. "While you might not wear a uniform, I know, we all know, the nation knows that you serve and sacrifice right alongside of your loved ones," she said.
The Illinois is the 13th Virginia Class sub to be completed, and the first since the yard began construction of two boats per year.
EB President Jeff Geiger spoke of his pride in seeing the ship in action. "I had the privilege to participate in Illinois’ first initial sea trials," he said, "and was greatly impressed and inspired by the performance of the ship and its crew."
Governor Dannel Malloy described the commissioning ceremony as a great way to celebrate Connecticut's 100th year as a submarine base for the Navy.
"We appreciate the great and hardy work done to get this ship ready," he told the workers gathered for the commissioning, "and we appreciate being a home of the Navy."
Second District Representative Joe Courtney, who has championed increased spending on the submarine fleet, described Groton as a center of excellence in submarine building and operation.
He said the Illinois, and the next Virginia class boat to be commissioned, the U.S.S. Washington, are the first fruits of the decision to move to producing two submarines each year.
"The impact of that milestone can be seen across this region from having five subs under construction at the same time inside the EB shipyard, hundreds of openings for new trades and engineering jobs, and the growth of small business suppliers to the submarine program," he said.
After its commissioning, U.S.S. Illinois becomes a working part of the Navy's fleet.