USS New Hampshire (SSN 778), the Navy’s newest nuclear-powered attack submarine and the fifth of the Virginia-class, was brought to life Oct. 25 during a commissioning ceremony at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
Cheryl McGuinness served as the ship’s sponsor, and gave the order to man the ship.
“Officers and crew of the USS New Hampshire, come aboard our ship, and bring her to life,” she said.
McGuinness is the widow of Lt. Cmdr. Thomas McGuinness, a veteran Navy pilot and a co-pilot on American Airlines Flight 11 that was flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center by terrorists Sept. 11, 2001.
“These Sailors are standing up for our country, standing up for freedom and standing up for our protection.” said McGuiness.
“It should be comforting to know that their diligence allows all of us to truly rest knowing that they are keeping watch and that they are listening for anything that could threaten freedom.”
More than 3,500 guests, including the crew’s family and friends, submarine veterans and Portsmouth shipyard workers, attended the ceremony welcoming the submarine as the fourth naval vessel to be named New Hampshire. Approximately 1,000 additional residents of Portsmouth watched the ceremony on closed circuit television in Portsmouth’s Prescott Park, across the Piscataqua River, within sight of the ceremony at PNS.
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) served as the principal speaker during the ceremony. He praised the men of USS New Hampshire, the shipyard workers, and paid special tribute to the family members.
“Remember, there are families behind all these men serving on this ship,” Gregg told the audience. “Those families sacrifice too. They have their Sailors away for months on end. Their courage, energy, vitality and vigor allow them to go on with their lives so that those Sailors can do their job of defending our nation.”
In addition to all the dignitaries present was a special group of school children. Students from Garrison Elementary School in Dover, N.H., started a letter-writing campaign in 2004, requesting the submarine bear the name of their state.
New Hampshire arrived at PNS Oct. 19 and was warmly greeted by the community. The crew was treated to many events, including a lobster bake and several receptions in the local area. Several crewmembers also received tickets to watch the National Football League’s New England Patriots take on the St. Louis Rams Oct. 26.
“To have the ship’s motto the same as the state’s motto of ‘Life Free Or Die’ is especially fitting,” said Cmdr. Michael Stevens, USS New Hampshire commanding officer.
“The New Hampshire and her crew will forge a new legacy that will be coupled together with the stories and achievements of many great New Hampshire notables who helped shape the history of the nation and this great state,” said Adm. Kirkland Donald, director of Naval Reactors.
This is the first time in 12 years that two submarines of the same class have been commissioned in the same year. USS North Carolina (SSN 777) was commissioned in May.
Cost-reduction initiatives resulted in USS New Hampshire being delivered eight months early and $54 million under budget. Some say this is just one of the reasons why the Virginia class of submarines is becoming a benchmark for future classes of naval ships.
Through their unique capabilities of stealth and endurance, Virginia-class submarines directly enable the Maritime Strategy core capabilities of forward presence, deterrence, sea control, power projection and maritime security. Equally adept at operating in the world’s shallow littoral regions and deep waters, New Hampshire will significantly contribute to the mission areas of anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; special operations forces; strike; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; irregular warfare; and mine warfare.