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Mississippi Floats

The following post is written by Ms. Allison Stiller, sponsor of PCU Mississippi (SSN 780)

I work for the Navy, and my “day job” is all about building ships. But today, I got to do something really special that’s not part of my normal routine because I’m also privileged to be the sponsor for the Virginia Class Submarine Mississippi (SSN 782). General Dynamics-Electric Boat in Groton, Conn., invited me, as the submarine’s sponsor, to help with the “float-off,” which is when the boat is put in the water for the first time.

I’ve been fortunate to be part of other milestones for Mississippi and her crew—my initials are on a metal plate welded inside the hull from the keel laying ceremony in June 2010, and I visited with the wonderful officers and crew this past August and see how the boat was progressing. Every time I see this boat, I am amazed again by the skilled work that goes into building such a complex fighting machine. And today was certainly no exception.

To witness Mississippi moving from the land where she’s been built since Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries first bent steel to begin her construction in February 2007, to the sea—her permanent home—was truly exciting. The day was gray and rainy as the shipyard workers and crew gathered for the big event, but then the sun broke through the clouds with a dazzling brightness and a sure signal of a bright future for Mississippi. So, I turned the valve to start the water flowing into the dry dock and around the hull of the boat, and Mississippi was floating! Now, the builders and crew are ready for the final push in the construction timeline.

Christening is the next milestone and I’ll get to smash the champagne bottle across the sail of the boat and officially bestow the name Mississippi. And this coming summer, the fabulous crew will run aboard at commissioning and then-USS Mississippi will join the fleet as the 9th Virginia Class attack submarine. Mississippi is on track to deliver faster than any of her sister Virginia Class submarines. Counting my boat, the Navy has six submarines under construction and a 7th, PCU California (SSN 781), will be commissioned at the end of this month.

Watching this process from my role as a sponsor has made me appreciate even more that amazing teamwork between Navy and builder to bring our boat to life. What a great Navy day and terrific way to celebrate the Navy’s 236th birthday!

Allison Stiller serves the Navy in her “day job” as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Ship Programs.

Water rushes into the graving dock at General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, CT, moments after Allison Stiller, PCU Mississippi's (SSN782) sponsor, gave the order to float the ship off in a graving dock at the shipyard in Groton, CT, on Oct. 13, 2011. With her are (l-r) Stephen J. Webb, General Foreman, Ship's Manager Harold Haugeto and Ronald J. Gravell (r), Senior Material Planning Specialist. Ms. Stiller serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Ships.

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