Remarks by the First Lady at the Commissioning of the USS ILLINOIS
Groton Navy Yard
11:51 A.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Well, hello, everyone. Before I begin, your Chief of the Boat asked me to say one word, and he promised that you would know how to respond. So let me give this a try: “Fighting!”
CREW OF THE USS ILLINOIS: Illini!
MRS. OBAMA: It continues to be very cool. (Laughter.)
Let me just start by thanking Governor Malloy, Undersecretary Davidson, Admiral Richardson, the officers of the ILLINOIS, Commander Porter and Master Chief DiPietro, and all our other outstanding Navy leaders, as well as Senator Blumenthal, Representatives Langevin, Courtney, and Hultgren, and, of course, Jeff Geiger and Matt Mulherin.
And of course, I want to take a moment to just give a huge shout-out to our military families –- our amazing military spouses and partners. And since we’ve asked people to raise their hands, I just want to find out how many military kids are here with us today. Let’s give our kids a round of applause. (Applause.)
And I understand this crew has been pretty busy. Since the crew was stood up, there have been 32 babies born -- (laughter) -- and three more on the way. So way to go. (Laughter.) Thank you for that. And one thing I just want to say to the military families -- 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. And we are so grateful and proud of all of you for your service to this nation.
Now, we’re here today to commission the Navy’s newest Virginia-class submarine: The USS ILLINOIS. And 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. Back then, this boat was in four components spread over three states; today, it’s the most advanced ship in the Navy -– a ship that’s as complicated to operate as a space shuttle, a ship that can carry out any kind of critical mission, from search-and-rescue to scientific research.
And all of this is a great credit to Jeff and Matt and all of the hardworking folks at General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries and Newport News Shipbuilding. Again, let’s give them all a round of applause. Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication. (Applause.)
But Jeff and Matt will also be the first to tell you that it takes more than great materials to make a great ship. That’s why today, in addition to commissioning this ship, we’re also celebrating the outstanding sailors who serve on it. We already knew that you all had all the exceptional qualifications on paper, but then you went out in sea trials and showed that you’re even better in practice. You didn’t just deliver this boat on time, you also displayed the courage and knowledge to truly earn your Dolphins. And today, every single one of you can do everything on this ship. You can fight a fire, you can stop a flood. You all earned a perfect score on your weapons test, and you passed your engineering certification on the very first try. That’s my crew. Proud of you all. (Applause.)
From your head cook, Petty Officer First Class Joe White, who I hear runs the best Mess in the business -- let’s take a moment to honor the food -- (applause) -- to Petty Officer First Class Ryan Mock, whose team of engineers oversees a nuclear reactor filled with over 450-degree water, which sounds like something out of “Star Trek” -- this whole ship is just amazingly complicated to me. It’s just incredible what this crew can do.
So you all are the very definition of excellence. And speaking of excellence, I actually have the pleasure of making a special announcement today. In recognition of his outstanding service, Ryan Mock’s officers have selected him as this ship’s Sailor of the Year. So congratulations to Ryan and to his family. We’re proud of you. (Applause.)
And that’s really why Jill Biden and I started Joining Forces –- because we are proud of all of you. I can’t say it enough. Working with our military community has been the biggest honor of my life. This is a proud moment for me. We wanted to rally all of Americans to serve you as well as you serve this country every single day. And I am thrilled by everything that we’ve achieved together over the past five years to ensure that you and your families have the jobs you deserve, the benefits you’ve earned, and the honor and support of our nation, that you know that we love you.
So today, I want to end by once again telling you that I am beyond proud. Your Commander-in-Chief is also proud. Thank you for giving me the incredible privilege of being associated with you and your families and with the ILLINOIS for the rest of my life. 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. And from this voyage until her last, may God bless and keep this ship and all who serve on her.
And with that, it is my honor to give your very first order. Are we ready?
Officers and crew of the USS ILLINOIS, “Man our ship and bring her to life!” (Applause.)
11:58 A.M. EDT