Two dozen state legislators and other dignitaries are heading to Norfolk, Va. this week to attend Saturday’s scheduled commissioning of the USS Minnesota.
The bipartisan delegation will tour the Navy’s newest submarine on Thursday and attend other events ahead of the commissioning, which is the ceremony that marks the vessel’s official entry into active fleet duty.
“I’m a Navy guy,” said state Rep. Ernie Leidiger, R-Mayer, who organized the trip. “We should all feel quite honored that the Navy has decided to go ahead and name this ship here, the most advanced warship on the face of the earth — and name it after Minnesota. I’m ecstatic about it. I think we all should be.”
State Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, will attend the ceremony in the dual role of Minnesota legislator and Navy Reserve lieutenant. He will be in uniform as a protocol officer assigned to the event. Reinert said the possibility of a U.S. military strike against Syria could be on the minds of a lot of participants.
“We don’t know what tomorrow or the next several days will bring,” Reinert said. “But for this weekend, it will be about celebrating the commissioning of the ship.”
Reinert noted that the new submarine still has several shakeout exercises ahead of it.
The USS Minnesota is the Navy’s 10th Virginia-class attack submarine. Construction began in February 2008, and delivery to the Navy in June came 11 months ahead of schedule. The Navy christened the sub last October.
The cost of the submarine was about $2 billion and it will have a crew of more than 130, said Lt. Tim Hawkins, public affairs officer for Submarine Group Two. He said one of the unique features of the Virginia-class is a control system that allows for operation in shallow waters.
“These submarines are pretty special,” Hawkins said. “They’re an improvement in capability for attack submarines, which are in high demand by the combatant commanders around the globe.”
Hawkins explained that one of the traditions of a commission ceremony involves “calling upon the crew to man the ship.” He said crew members will respond to the order by running to board the submarine.
The new submarine is the third Navy vessel to bear the USS Minnesota name. The first was a Civil War-era sailing steam frigate. It was commissioned in 1857 and decommissioned in 1898. A second USS Minnesota was a battleship commissioned in 1907. After service in World War I, the ship was decommissioned in 1921.