When faced with the challenge of bringing the people of Tucson, Arizona, to see the U.S. Navy, the crew of Pre-Commissioning Unit TUCSON (SSN 770) decided to take the Navy to the people. As part of Commander Submarine Force Atlantic Fleet’s Namesake Community Relations Program, 30 members of Team Tucson flew to Tucson, Arizona recently to meet with community leaders and participate in a series of events aimed at increasing the awareness of PCU TUCSON’s upcoming commissioning planned for the fall of 1995.
The namesake program is critical in reaching out to communities that have submarines named for them. ..We have developed a very strong relationship with the community leaders of Tucson,” said TUCSON’s Prospective Commanding Officer, Commander Duane Baker, “but until this visit, we haven’t been able to reach out and meet that many citizens.” The 17 year Navy veteran added, “this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for us all.”
Baker and his crew were guests of the City of Tucson and participated in six days packed full of activities. “I’m not sure why I brought any civilian clothes, we went to one event after another and there was little time for much else. The people of Tucson were the greatest hosts you could have asked for,” exclaimed YN2 (SS) Eric McCray.
According to TUCSON’s Chief of the Boat, Master Chief Greg Determan, “the intent in setting up this trip was to help build a foundation with the people of Tucson that would last well beyond our commissioning. We wanted to make sure that everyone knew they had a ship named after their city and that the crew was proud to represent them.”
TUCSON’s crew flew from Naval Air Station Norfolk aboard a Naval Reserve C-9 and within hours of landing taped a news show with the local PBS television station and were guests of the famous Triple C Chuckwagon Restaurant, where everyone enjoyed a little taste of the old West. The next day began with interviews on local radio stations during the morning drive-time hours, tours of Hughes Missile System Company Tomahawk Assembly Plant and Sargent Controls Aerospace, a visit to a local shopping mall, more radio interviews and an evening spent at one of Tucson’s more famous night spots, the Wild Wild West.
A major goal of the visit was to try and include the news media in as many events as possible. “Exposure of our visit with local news media was essential in reaching the community. The radio interviews and coverage by local TV stations gave us an opportunity to get the word out that we were in town and were anxious to meet with as many citizens as possible and explain more about what their Navy and what their submarine was all about,” explained Baker.
The crew was hosted by Tucson High Magnet School, where 1,200 members of the student body turned out to pay tribute. The visit to the school also gave the crew an opportunity to recognize Miss Susana Arias, whose art work became the official seal of USS TUCSON. The 17 year old junior was among more than 200 entrants who sent in proposals for the official seal of the new submarine. Miss Arias was presented a U.S. Savings Bond and a framed copy of the official seal. Also recognized was Miss Lisa Larabee, a 14 year old freshman, whose art work was used as the official crest by the submarine’s builder, Newport News Ship-building, during the Christening Ceremony in Newport News, Virginia, this past March 19. The remainder of the day the crew toured historic sites and were hosted by local citizens for dinner.
For many in the crew, the highlight of the trip came when Team Tucson joined forces with hundreds of volunteers to help refurbish homes of needy Tucson residents. This important volunteer program repaired several homes in the Yaqui Indian Reservation.
“It was truly amazing to watch a home which was in need of repairs literally transformed before your eyes in a matter of hours,” said Radioman Chief (SS) John Marsino. The crew were assigned to two different homes and participated in tasks ranging from painting to landscaping.
“We knew that we had a lot of talent in the crew, and all we had to do was tum these guys loose and they would perform miracles,” said Determan. That evening the crew of the only other Navy ship to be named after the City of Tucson, the World War II anti-aircraft light cruiser USS TUCSON (CL 98), joined members for a reunion celebration.
On Sunday, crew members attended church services and teamed up with U.S. Congressman Jim Kolbe for a hike and cookout in the beautiful Sabino Canyon. The Arizona congressman thanked the crew for coming to Tucson and commented that their visit was a huge success in spreading the word about the Navy. Later that day, the crew and USS TUCSON Commission members were hosted by Lieutenant Commander Bob Webb, USN(Ret.) at the R.B. Webb Winery for a reception featuring a specially labeled USS TUCSON (SSN 770) 1993 Arizona Fume Blanc Wine.
Before heading back to Norfolk, TUCSON’s crew fanned out throughout the city and paid visits to each of the city’s councilmen and county supervisors, as well as visits to the local Veterans Administration Hospital.
“We left no stone unturned during this visit,” said Baker, “and the people of Tucson were more gracious than we could have ever hoped for.”
Team Tucson left with a better understanding of their namesake city and met the challenge of bringing a small part of the Navy to the people of Tucson.
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