By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (April 02, 2022) -- 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.
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.
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.
"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.
"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.
"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."
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.
"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.