NEWPORT NEWS—Virginia-class Attack Submarine Massachusetts (SSN 798) was officially christened on Saturday, May 6 at Newport News Shipbuilding. The honors were handled by the ship’s sponsor Sheryl Sandberg, who is the founder and chair of the Sandberg Goldberg Bernthal Family Foundation and former chief operating officer of Meta (formerly Facebook).
“When Ray Mabus, who is Secretary of the Navy, asked me to do this eight years ago, I was so honored and really excited,” said Sandberg. “It’s one of the first builds of the Virginia-class submarines that was intentionally designed not just for men, but for women sailors. Secretary Mabus really believes that drawing on the full talents of our population is critical to national security, and that’s what this boat represents. So, for me, this is a celebration of a vessel, a celebration of the ship builders and crew, but it’s also a celebration of equality.”
Commander Mike Siedsma, who will be the commanding officer of the sub, was equally excited about the boat’s christening.
“The crew and I are excited to share this event with the sponsor, our shipbuilders, and all our families,” said Siedsma. “Some of my crew have been here since 2019, so to get to the point where the Massachusetts looks as good as she does and is as far along in the build cycle as she is, is amazing for them to see. It’s a good reward for all the hard work. We’re excited to take her to sea and operate her in support of the nation’s defense, and we’re honored to establish the ‘Iron Patriot’s’ legacy as an enemy to tyrants.”
According to Siedsma, every ship typically has a call sign and Iron Patriot is the one chosen for the Massachusetts.
“’Iron’ is after the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned ship in the Navy, born in Boston Harbor, and ‘Patriot’ is after the patriots of the American Revolution who started our efforts against the British in Massachusetts. So, we thought it was a fitting moniker for us,” he said.
Mary Cupp, who is a marine painter and was available for questions on a special media day held the day before the christening, has been working on the Massachusetts for three years.
“It’s really exciting to see it from one department’s perspective and now it’s fully together,” said Cupp. “It’s 377 feet long and my team is in charge of the aft end, basically from the engine room back, so it’s pretty exciting and it makes me feel really proud. Before I came here, I didn’t realize how proud of an American I was. But just doing this and knowing that my grandchildren may someday be on it, I want to do the best job I can. I want it to be safe.”
The Massachusetts still has some work that’s needed before being fully operational. At this point, it is most likely going to be June of 2024 before she’s ready to take on missions.
“It’s an incredible day—we don’t get to do this that often,” said Jennifer Boykin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding. “Looking at the boat, the size and magnitude of it, it’s very exciting. The Massachusetts will be the second Virginia-class that we’ve delivered that’s designed for mixed crews. I think that’s important to recognize today. We have a fine crew, we have a fine commanding officer, the shipbuilders are just so proud, and I’m so proud of them.”
Massachusetts is the twenty-fifth Virginia-class submarine and the twelfth to be delivered by Newport News Shipbuilding. The ceremony was attended by more than 2,000 guests. A video of the ceremony is available here.