Lawmakers to attend commissioning of USS Minnesota submarine

A group of Minnesota lawmakers, including several from the St. Cloud area, will be in Virginia next month to mark a special occasion for the U.S. Navy: the commissioning of its newest submarine, the USS Minnesota.

State Reps. Jeff Howe, R-Rockville — a Navy veteran — Tim O’Driscoll, R-Sartell, and Tama Theis, R-St. Cloud, are headed to Norfolk, Va., on Sept. 7 for the commissioning ceremony. It will be the first time in more than a century that a Navy vessel is commissioned bearing Minnesota’s name.

The commissioning is a way of recognizing that the newly built, 7,800-ton Virginia-class nuclear submarine is officially a Navy vessel.

Rep. Ernie Leidiger, R-Mayer, says he’s organizing 16 Minnesota lawmakers to travel to the event. Leidiger, a retired Navy Lieutenant Commander, says it’s a bipartisan contingent that includes other veterans in the Legislature such as Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, and Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth.

Leidiger say the Navy League of the United States Twin Cities Council also was instrumental in organizing the trip. He says no state funds are going toward the trip and all legislators are paying for it out of pocket.

“The Navy has graciously honored this state by naming the most advanced warship on the face of the earth (with) the name Minnesota,” Leidiger said. “We all ought to be very, very proud of that.”

Howe served in the Iraq War with the Minnesota National Guard before taking office. But before that, Howe launched his military career in the Navy from 1978 to 1981. Howe says he was stationed on a Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Kitty Hawk, during the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979.

“I started my military career in the Navy, so it’s going to bring back a few memories for me,” Howe said. “I’m truly looking forward to the trip.”

The last Navy vessel to bear the name “Minnesota” was a Connecticut-class battleship commissioned in 1907 that saw service in World War I.

Before that, the Navy’s first USS Minnesota was a wooden steam frigate commissioned in 1857 that saw action during the Civil War.

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Mark Sommerhauser

About Mark Sommerhauser

Greetings! I cover state and some federal politics for the St. Cloud Times. Before this, I worked the political beat at the Winona Daily News.
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