The second warship to ever bear the name of our state was anointed in May with a proper Native American blessing. The Montana (SSN 794), is the 21st of its kind, the newest Virginia-class attack submarine.
In keeping with a U.S. Navy tradition, the ship’s sponsor, former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, chalked her initials onto a steel plate.
“It’s a true honor to meet the commander, crew, and shipbuilders who are hard at work shaping this amazing submarine to serve our nation,” stated Jewell. “We celebrate the tradition of the keel laying and look forward to blessing her, christening her, and ensuring that the natural beauty, rich culture, and spirit of the great state of Montana accompany the ship and crew throughout her lifetime.”
Jacob McNulty, a welder at Newport News Shipbuilding where the craft was built, was born in Montana. He traced Jewell’s inscription on the plate, which signified that the keel of Montana is “truly and fairly laid.” The steel plate will be permanently affixed to the submarine.
Mariah Gladstone, a member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana, performed a Native American blessing in her native tongue and then in English, while waving a smoking sage stick over the newly welded keel.
“Bless this ship so that it may do good and so that those who are on it may do good. And bless them as well,” she said.
“The keel laying marks the first milestone for the crew in the construction process of Montana,” said Cmdr. Mike Delaney, who was recently assigned first commanding officer of the submarine’s pre-commissioning unit. “We are excited to begin this journey and bring the Montana to life over the next few years.”
Construction of the Montana began in May 2015. The boat is approximately 46 percent complete and is expected to be delivered in late 2020.
“All of us who will serve aboard Montana have a deep appreciation for the values, courage, heritage, and history of our boat’s namesake state,” said Delaney. “These Montana attributes contribute to the strength and purpose of our crew as we defend our nation.”
According to Dr. Bill Whitsitt, Chairman of the USS Montana commissioning committee, Montanans are eager to welcome the leadership team and crew members to the Treasure State.
“We look forward to supporting the state’s namesake warship and crews for her entire service life,” said Whitsitt. MSN
More information about the USS Montana Committee and progress toward commissioning of Montana’s namesake warship may be found at www.ussmontanacommittee.us.