The Secretary of the Navy is charged with designating sponsors for all United States Navy Ships. Sponsors play a unique role for the Navy. As they christen their ships, bestowing upon the vessel a name chosen by the Secretary of the Navy, they become an integral part of that ship’s history. The crew of the ship may change many times over the course of a ship’s life, but the Sponsor remains the same. The Sponsor’s role is an important one. She will participate in as many of the ceremonial milestones in the life of her ship of the ship as possible and her experiences will be memorable.
A ship sponsor, by tradition, is a female civilian who is invited to "sponsor" a vessel, presumably to bestow good luck and divine protection over the seagoing vessel and all that sail aboard. In the United States Navy and the United States Coast Guard the sponsor is technically considered a permanent member of the ship's crew and is expected to give a part of her personality to the ship, as well as advocate for its continued service and well-being. For passenger ships the sponsor is called a Godmother.
The christening ceremony marks the traditional transition of the ship from the new construction phase to its comprehensive tests and trials phase – moving from a mere hull number to a ship with a name and spirit.