Mississippi Leaders, Community Welcome Namesake Sub Captain
BILOXI, Miss. - The captain of the latest Navy vessel to be named after the state of Mississippi provided a progress report to enthusiastic state leaders, local submarine veterans and community members Feb. 18 - 22 in the Magnolia State.
Cmdr. John McGrath, Officer-in-Charge of Virginia-class attack submarine Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Mississippi (SSN 782), met with Governor Haley Barbour and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann during the five-day swing through Mississippi. He also spoke with Gulf Coast submarine veterans of USSVI Tullibee Base, state and local political, business and community members and Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) Midshipmen at the Universities of Mississippi and Memphis.
During the trip, McGrath proved updates about the submarine's construction and answered questions about commissioning the boat.
"We have been blown away by the level of support in the state," said McGrath. "We had planned on meeting with just a few people on this trip and leaving with some ideas about how to lay the groundwork for a commissioning, but the level of enthusiasm has been inspiring."
During each stop, support was high for the fifth Navy vessel called Mississippi.
"I am proud this new attack submarine will carry the name Mississippi; it's a tremendous honor and recognizes the dedicated service for which Mississippians have been known throughout history. I was delighted to meet Cmdr. McGrath, and am pleased to work toward giving Mississippians an important role in this new submarine's commissioning," said Governor Barbour. "It's an exciting time."
"Cmdr. McGrath and the Navy are gaining a new ship with the USS Mississippi (SSN 782). What they did not realize is they are also gaining support of over 2.9-million friends in the Magnolia State," said Secretary Hosemann, whose father was a commander in the Navy. "I presented a Mississippi flag flown over the State Capitol to Cmdr. McGrath for the USS Mississippi as a symbol of our mutual bond."
"I was really pleased with the turn out of the submarine veterans," said Richard Johnson, Base Commander of USSVI Tullibee Base of Mississippi, a submarine veterans group that organized Saturday's gathering. "We got a good cross-section of people, including State Senator Tommy Gollott; Brig. Gen. Ian R. Dickinson, Commander, 81st Training Wing, Keesler Air Force Base; and other notables from the VA Hospital and Vietnam Veterans memorial. This is our first attempt, and I think it was successful."
Johnson said that his group is excited about the new namesake submarine and hopes her commissioning ceremony can be held in Mississippi. During a commissioning ceremony, a vessel is officially brought into Navy service. The time and location of commissioning ceremonies are decided by the Secretary of the Navy after considering many logistic and practical factors.
Construction of the submarine began in Feb. 18, 2007. According to McGrath, the submarine is about 60% complete and is on schedule. Currently, there is a small section of the boat at General Dynamics Electric Boat's shipyard in Groton, Conn. In the coming months, additional sections will be floating up the Thames River in Groton, Conn. to be joined together at Electric Boat. Delivery and commissioning are set for early 2012.
Upon completion and commissioning, Mississippi, the fifth Navy vessel to carry the name of the Magnolia State, will join the other Virginia-class subs as flexible, multi-mission platforms designed to carry out the seven core competencies of the Submarine Force: anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; special operations forces; strike; irregular warfare; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and mine warfare.
The ship's sponsor will be Allison Stiller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition) Ship Programs.