On the second of November, eleven eager midshipmen, from both sides of the Charles River, piled into a van and headed for Groton, Connecticut. The midshipmen were on their way to witness the christening of a submarine into the world’s strongest and greatest maritime fighting force! The U.S.S North Dakota was about to join the United States Navy’s ever expanding submarine fleet.
The North Dakota is a Virginia Class submarine, displacing approximately 7,800 tons, measuring 377 feet in length, and capable of reaching speeds of over 25 knots underwater. The Virginia Class is the only class of submarine currently being constructed by the Navy. It is a fast attack nuclear class that serves as the Seawolf Class’s replacement. The North Dakota is the 11th submarine of the Virginia Class and the first Block III Virginia Class. The Navy says that as the first “Block III” Virginia, “North Dakota will be the first of its class built with large-diameter tubes in the bow, a new type of bow sonar, and dozens of more discrete changes designed to reduce the ships construction and life cycle costs without sacrificing war fighting capabilities.”1
In attendance at the ceremony were the Governor of North Dakota; Senators from Connecticut, North Dakota, and Rhode Island; and United States Representatives from North Dakota and Connecticut. The main speaker at the Christening was Vice Admiral Michael J. Connor, Commander, Submarine Forces. He has served on the Joint Staff, on the staff of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy; and as director, Submarine Warfare Division; director, Naval Warfare Integration Group; and assistant deputy chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems on the OPNAV staff. VADM Connor assumed his current duties as Commander, Submarine Forces in September 2012. Rear Admiral David C. Johnson was also present. According to the official website of the United States Navy, “RADM Johnson is a 1982 graduate of MIT and is currently the program executive officer, Submarines. He is responsible for all new construction submarine programs, as well as acquisition and life cycle maintenance of submarine weapons, countermeasures, sonar, combat control and imaging systems. His PEO includes the Ohio Replacement SSBN and Virginia class SSN programs, which are the 2nd and 3rd largest programs respectively in the Department of Defense.”2
The ceremony began with a welcome from the President of General Dynamics Electric Boat, Kevin J. Poitras, and several speeches followed. The sponsor of the North Dakota, Katie Fowler, was thanked for her support and dedication to the project. Then the blessing of the boat took place and it was finally time to christen the submarine. “In the name of the United States, I christen thee, North Dakota. May God bless her and all that sail in her,” said Mrs. Fowler just before giving the bottle a brisk swing. The midshipmen present were grateful for the opportunity to see not only the christened submarine, but also to hear the admirals speak. After all, it is the example of men like them that midshipmen strive to follow. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the crew of the North Dakota shouted a resounding “Hooyah North Dakota,” and those present could not help but feel a sense of pride.
- Cragg, Jennifer, Lt. Cmdr. “Navy.mil Home Page.” North Dakota Governor Proclaims USS North Dakota Day. Navy.mil, 10 Jan. 2013. Web. 19 Nov. 2013. http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=71366
- “REAR ADMIRAL DAVID C. JOHNSON PROGRAM EXECUTIVE OFFICER FOR SUBMARINES.” Navy.mil. United States Navy Biography, 15 July 2012. Web. 19 Nov. 2013. http://www.navy.mil/navydata/bios/navybio.asp?bioID=468
Written by: MIDN 4/c Josh Zins