Obama has sponsored for over two years as part of an initiative called Joining Forces

By Stephanie Petit
Updated November 01, 2016 03:00 PM
Credit: Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

Michelle Obama was “beyond proud” to take part in a commissioning ceremony Saturday for a new U.S. Navy attack submarine named for her home state of Illinois.

The first lady traveled to Groton, Connecticut, to participate in the commissioning of the USS Illinois, a vessel she has sponsored for over two years as part of Joining Forces, an initiative started by Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to rally around military personnel and their families. She previously participated in the keel laying of the submarine in May of 2014 and the christening of the PCU Illinois in October 2015.

“I have to say that this moment is a little bittersweet for me because today marks our last event together, at least while I’m First Lady — the end of a journey that started more than two years ago,” she said at the commissioning. “Back then, this boat was in four components spread over three states; today, it’s the most advanced ship in the Navy -– a ship that’s as complicated to operate as a space shuttle, a ship that can carry out any kind of critical mission, from search-and-rescue to scientific research.”

Credit: Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson
Credit: Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

In addition to making remarks, Obama took a tour of the ship. The first lady learned how to exit through a hatch in the ceiling, handled an electronic periscope and greeted sailors, whom she praised in her speech as “the very definition of excellence.”

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“From your head cook, Petty Officer First Class Joe White, who I hear runs the best Mess in the business … to Petty Officer First Class Ryan Mock, whose team of engineers oversees a nuclear reactor filled with over 450-degree water, which sounds like something out of Star Trek — this whole ship is just amazingly complicated to me,” she said. “It’s just incredible what this crew can do.”

“And with that, it is my honor to give your very first order. Are we ready?” Obama concluded. “Officers and crew of the USS Illinois, “Man our ship and bring her to life!”