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Santa Barbara Navy League Helps Christen New Submarine

PCU California (SSN 781) under construction in Virginia will be commissioned next year

Members and officers of the Santa Barbara Navy League attended the christening of the Navy’s newest Virginia-class submarine, the Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) California (SSN 781), on Nov. 6 in Newport News, Va.

Lin Graf, president of the Santa Barbara Council; Dan Branch, national president of the Navy League of the United States, and his wife, Kathleen; Doug Crawford, NLUS senior director of corporate development; Lynn Behrens, SBNL vice president of operations; and SBNL public affairs officer Patricia Westberg and her husband, retired Navy Capt. Robert Westberg Jr., participated in this significant event for the officers, crew and shipbuilders of the PCU California. Once the ship is commissioned in 2011, it will be referred to as the USS California (SSN 781).

The Santa Barbara Council members were treated to a variety of events, beginning with a sponsor’s dinner in celebration of the christening at the Marriott Newport News, followed by the pre-ceremony breakfast, christening and reception at the Northrup Grumman shipbuilding facility.

The submarine is the seventh Navy vessel (and the first submarine) to bear the California name. The first was a screw sloop built in 1867. The most recent was a nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser (CGN 36) that was in service from February 1974 to July 1999.

The most famous USS California was the Tennessee-class battleship (BB 44) that was built at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo and it was sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The ship was salvaged, reconstructed and served again for the remainder of World War II before being decommissioned in 1947. The ship’s bell from the USS California is on display at the California State Capitol Museum in Sacramento.

The Santa Barbara Council of the Navy League is dedicated to the support of Navy service members as well as members of other services. The council has adopted 13 units from all communities of the armed forces, including the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and the USS Stockdale (DDG 106).

— Patricia Westberg is the Santa Barbara Navy League’s public affairs officer.

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