WILMINGTON, N.C. (NNS) -- The Navy's newest nuclear-powered submarine, USS North Carolina (SSN 777), was brought to life May 3 during a commissioning ceremony held in its namesake state at the Port of Wilmington.
More than 6,500 guests, including submarine veterans and battleship North Carolina alumni, attended the ceremony welcoming the submarine as the fourth naval vessel named after the "Tarheel State."
The ship's sponsor, Mrs. Linda Anne Rich Bowman, wife of Admiral Frank L. "Skip" Bowman, retired U.S. Navy Admiral and former Director, Naval Nuclear Reactors, gave the order, "Officers and crew of the USS North Carolina, man your ship, and bring her to life!"
"You're a team and ready to go forth and defend this country," said Bowman. "My hope is that she (USS North Carolina) will sail in peace to keep us free. My assurance is that she will always be ready to defend that freedom whenever necessary."
The ceremony included speeches made by local and congressional politicians as well as flag officers of the submarine force. The Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter was the principal speaker at the ceremony.
"As the fourth ship to carry the name North Carolina, this boat will bear an illustrious name, and follow in North Carolina's long and honored tradition as the home of military heroes," said Winter. "She now joins the world's greatest Navy, and will be tasked with a wide range of missions in support of battle groups, in reconnaissance and surveillance missions, in special operations, and as part of the submarine force that continues to deter aggression from every potential foe."
North Carolina arrived in Wilmington on Apr. 28 and participated in more than 50 community events to celebrate the state's first namesake vessel since 1947, when battleship North Carolina was decommissioned.
"The local community embraced us with open arms and we will not only continue to foster our namesake relationship with the residents of Wilmington, but also the great state on North Carolina," said Capt. Mark Davis, USS North Carolina commanding officer.
The Navy's newest class of submarine, the Virginia-Class, is the first designed and built post Cold War in order to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The USS North Carolina is the fourth submarine of the Virginia-Class and has improved stealth, sophisticated surveillance capabilities and special warfare enhancements that will enable it to meet the Navy's multi-mission requirements.
For more news from Commander, Submarine Force, visit www.navy.mil/local/sublant.