GALVESTON, Texas (NNS) -- First lady Laura Bush ordered the Sailors of USS Texas (SSN 775) to bring the U.S. Navy's newest nuclear-powered attack submarine to life in a Sept. 9 commissioning ceremony in the Lone Star State.
As the crew rushed aboard the submarine before 10,000 spectators at the Port of Galveston, two F/A-18s Hornets roared across the sky, followed by a formation of three World War II-era Navy warplanes.
The first lady, the boat's sponsor and a native Texan, told the crew the country will depend on them to defend democracy and freedom in the era of the global war on terrorism.
"People of a great nation are trusting you to keep them safe," she told the Sailors, adding the people of a great state are trusting them to carry the state's -- and the submarine's motto -- to the far corners of the globe: 'Don't Mess With Texas.'"
"Every time the Texas sails, you can be justifiably proud that she carries a piece of each of you with her," said Adm. Michael Mullen, Chief of Naval Operations, noting the state's fighting tradition has led thousands of Texans today to serve in uniform worldwide.
The crew and submarine will build on the legacy of the two battleships and one cruiser that have borne the name Texas since the late 19th century, the first lady said. The second Texas (BB 35), for example, bombarded Iwo Jima and Okinawa during World War II.
"In the face of tremendous danger, they put aside their fears to take up the cause of freedom," she said.
The Texas, she said, embodies the best ideals of its home state: endurance, courage, loyalty and stealth.
U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Galveston native, said her hometown has had strong historical ties to the Navy. The city was the homeport to the Texas navy that fought for independence from Mexico, she said, and is home to USS Seawolf (SS 197), a decommissioned World War II submarine.
"We are a state that loves our heritage and we have a deep respect for our nation's military," she said.
Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Benjamin A. McTee said Texas was his top choice of submarines he wanted to serve aboard because he's a native Texan.
The crew, he said, is anxious to set out to sea.
"I'm ready to see it come to life," he said. "It's been a long road and (the Sailors are) ready to get out of the shipyard."
The sub arrives in the fleet as the second Virginia-class vessel, and it will be homeported at Submarine Base New London in Groton, Conn.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, the ceremony's principal speaker, said the warship stands as a testament to the nation's unwavering commitment to stand up to extremism in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"America has learned the hard way the best guarantor of peace is a strong military," the Texas senator said. "Our nation builds weapons of war so we may live in peace."
The high-tech attack boat, with a crew of 134, sails into history as the first post-Cold War class of submarine designed for battlespace dominance against 21st century adversaries lurking in deep waters, near shore environments or on land.
The 377-foot-long sub, with a weight of more than 7,800 tons submerged, has the capability to travel more than 25 knots and dive below 800 feet. It has the ability to carry torpedoes, mines, cruise missiles, and transport Naval Special Warfare SEALs (Sea, Air, Land) around the world.
"Texas is a very elegant ship, but it is very lethal," said Mike Petters, president of Northrup Grumman Newport News in Newport News, Va., lead contractor that built the vessel in partnership with Groton, Conn.-based General Dynamics Electronic Boat.
Virginia-class submarines rank as the first to have an information systems technology department because of the heavy use of computers aboard the vessel. For example, photonic masts that don't penetrate the surface have replaced the traditional periscope, and more than 60 computer and information screens fill the control room. The sub's Multi-Mission Module will allow crews to use the latest technological equipment.
The nuclear-powered sub's reactor plant will not require refueling during the boat's planned lifespan.
The Navy has a planned class size of 30 vessels. More than 4,000 suppliers in 47 states and the District of Columbia produce millions of parts for the submarines.
The Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve-based Navy Reserve squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 201 Hunters flew over the ceremony in two F/A-18 Hornets, while an F4F Corsair, F-6F Wildcat and SBD Dauntless soared overhead in 1940s warplanes from the Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston.
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