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News   Defense News

First Lady, President Officially Commission Navy Attack Submarine

April 2, 2022 | BY C. Todd Lopez , DOD News

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and President Joe Biden today participated in the official commissioning of the Virginia-class attack submarine USS Delaware at the Port of Wilmington in Delaware.

Three men and a woman stand with their hands over their hearts.
Anthem Honors
President Joe Biden, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, and Chief of Naval Operations Navy Adm. Mike Gilday stand for the national anthem during the commissioning ceremony for the submarine USS Delaware in Wilmington, Del., April 2, 2022.
Photo By: Navy Chief Petty Officer Joshua Karsten
VIRIN: 220402-N-GR655-0463A

The first lady serves as sponsor of the ship and participated in its christening in October 2018. Officials had planned to commission the Delaware much sooner, but due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the official commissioning ceremony was delayed in favor of an administrative commissioning in April 2020. The ship has been in operation since then. 

A submarine travels in water.
Return to Base
The USS Delaware makes its way up the Thames River and past the city of New London returning to Submarine Base New London, Oct. 1, 2021, after conducting routine operations.
Photo By: John Narewski, Navy
VIRIN: 211001-N-UM744-001R
Sailors ride on a submarine near a bridge.
Mooring Prep
Sailors conduct mooring preparations as the attack submarine USS Delaware pulls into Wilmington, Del., March 29, 2022.
Photo By: Navy Chief Petty Officer Joshua Karsten
VIRIN: 220329-N-GR655-0081M

In addition to the Bidens, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, Delaware Governor John Carney, U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons of Delaware, the ship's crew, and others officially commissioned the ship. 

As the ship's sponsor, Jill Biden has been involved in key events in the ship's history. She has also spent significant time during her husband's presidency and vice presidency working with and supporting the families of military service members — including those of the Delaware's crew. 

Today marks the beginning of an incredible journey, the ship's long and faithful service to our country. ... We may not know what's to come, but we do know this: The challenges will be met with the honor, distinction and valor of the 125 sailors who serve on her decks. You will lead with unparalleled character and courage."
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden

"Jill has watched over the progress of the USS Delaware for years," Biden said. "[As] the daughter of a Navy signalman during World War II, the mother of a member of the Delaware National Guard, and the grandmother of children who experienced having their father deployed away from home for a year at a time, she always holds our military and their families in her heart." 

The president said he's proud of the work his wife has done on behalf of the USS Delaware, but more so of the work she's done to support the families of the ship's crew and the families of service members across the nation. 

"I'm deeply proud of the work she's doing as first lady with the Joining Forces Initiative," he said. "It's a true passion for Jill and for our entire family." 

The first lady said she learned she'd been selected as the ship's sponsor back when her husband served as vice president. 

A graphic with an eagle and the words "USS Delaware - First Defenders of Liberty - SSN 791."
USS Delaware Logo
The logo of the USS Delaware.
Photo By: Navy
VIRIN: 220402-D-D0439-001R

"I'll never forget the pride I felt when I stood at the Pentagon with [then-] Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus ... to announce that I would be the ship's sponsor," she said. "The USS Delaware was nothing more than a drawing then." 

In 2018, the first lady said she attended the christening of the ship in Newport News, Virginia, where the ship was built, and saw what had previously been only a drawing "come to life in a shower of champagne."  

"I saw the truth of what Secretary Mabus said when it all began, that this vessel will always uphold the first state's motto of 'Liberty and Independence,'" the first lady said. 

At the ship's official commissioning, Jill Biden told the Delaware's crew of the confidence both she and the president have in their ability to carry out the mission of the ship and the Navy: defending the nation. 

Three men and a woman look at a counter of phones and wires.
Presidential Periscope
President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden operate the periscope using a video game controller alongside U.S. Fleet Forces commander Navy Adm. Daryl Caudle, right, and Navy Cmdr. Matthew Horton, commanding officer of the USS Delaware, following the submarine’s official commissioning ceremony in Wilmington, Del., April 2, 2022.
Photo By: Navy Chief Petty Officer Joshua Karsten
VIRIN: 220402-N-GR655-1000

"Today marks the beginning of an incredible journey, the ship's long and faithful service to our country," she said. "We may not know what's to come, but we do know this: The challenges will be met with the honor, distinction and valor of the 125 sailors who serve on her decks. You will lead with unparalleled character and courage." 

Families who remain behind have a role, as well, the first lady said. 

"As we look at this warship, we see its steel bulkheads and unbreakable hull," she said. "We see that it's strong enough to withstand the most crushing pressure and slip silently through the deadliest waters. And yet so much of its power is unseen: the engines and sonar, the rudders that give it direction and purpose. You, the families of this crew, may not wear a uniform. But with your love and support and with your sacrifice and devotion, you are as critical to our mission as the rudder is to this submarine." 

A submarine travels in water.
Wilmington Arrival
The USS Delaware arrives in Wilmington, Del., March 29, 2022. The Delaware’s 132-man crew traveled to Wilmington to participate in weeklong commemoration events in honor of its commissioning ceremony.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dakota David
VIRIN: 220329-N-YG157-0080R

Navy Cmdr. Matthew Horton, who now serves as commanding officer of the USS Delaware, thanked the first lady for serving as the ship's sponsor and for supporting the families of U.S. service members, including those of the USS Delaware. 

"The personal interest you've shown [for] the well-being of the families of [the] USS Delaware is unmatched," he said. 

Horton said sailors have known since antiquity that the best way to conduct naval operations was not on the surface, but beneath the waves. A naval vessel like the USS Delaware accomplishes what they had only dreamed of, he said. 

"The USS Delaware stands before you as the world's best effort to master the undersea domain," he said. "Delaware stands before you as the ideal ship: limitless in range, unmatched in power, precision and stealth. Her engineering renders her nearly undetectable, and her sensors reveal the presence of her foes." 

Despite the ship's advanced technological prowess, Horton said the best system on board the USS Delaware is not it's hardware or its weapons systems — it's the sailors who operate it. 

Sailors line up behind a banner bearing the words "USS Delaware".
Banner Moment
Sailors board the USS Delaware for the ship's official commissioning ceremony in Wilmington, Del., April 2, 2022.
Photo By: DOD video still
VIRIN: 220402-D-D0439-002Z

"The submariners who makeup Delaware come from all parts of our great country, and their dedication to the profession of submarine warfare is unmatched," he said. "We stand before you not as a crew fresh out of new construction, but a crew that has been evaluated in engineering and tactical performance and taken their place in the battle force. Today, Delaware upholds a proud tradition of the submarine force, ready to sail in harm's way, alone, forward and unafraid." 

The USS Delaware is the seventh Navy ship and first submarine named after the state of Delaware. The Virginia-class submarine is multi-mission platform that will carry out the seven core competencies of the submarine force: anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; delivery of special operations forces; strike warfare; irregular warfare; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and mine warfare.