About the Author: Dick Brown is a /011g-time NSL member and Cold War submarine veteran, having served aboard USS BARBERO (SSG-317) a11d USS LAFAYETTE (SSBN-616 Blue) in the 1960s. He played a lead role in the effort to have SSN 779 named for New Mexico, his adopted state, and chairs the USS New Mexico Committee.
Submarines used to be named after fish and other denizens of the deep, that is, until the advent of Los Angeles-class boats when most were named after great American cities. Then, with the Ohio and Virginia-class boats, the Navy started honoring our great states as it used to do with battleships. Such honors have provided great opportunities for citizens and organizations across the nation to establish and maintain long-term sister relationships with their namesake submarines. And in fact, over 40 percent of our submarines are currently enjoying strong bonds with their namesakes.
The bonding often starts with the submarine’s commissioning committee. It is there where strong relationships between the submarine and the city or state namesake can begin. However, some commissioning committees disband a year or so after commissioning rather than continue to support their namesake submarine. Our undersea warriors deserve non-stop support for the life of the ship. Considering the design life of today’s nuclear submarines is on the order of 30-35 years from initial reactor startup, long-term support can be a huge commitment and a lot of volunteer work, but also very rewarding. As for getting started, past commissioning committees are encouraged to help fledging new committees for VA-class boats as they roll out of the shipyards.
Because connections can be lost with changes in command, crew or homeport, skippers are encouraged to reach out to their submarine’s namesake and re-connect with home support teams. By the same token, city and state officials are encouraged to stay connected to their submarines.
Our submariners, and their families, make countless sacrifices protecting the American way of life and guarding the freedoms we so deeply cherish. Our boats are the Tip of the Spear and strong relationships with namesakes help Americans understand their Submarine Force’s mission, capabilities and relevance to national security. Our undersea warriors truly appreciate home team support such as offered to USS TUCSON (SSN 770) by its “770 Club”, a Navy League Tucson Council-sponsored committee of concerned citizens and support organizations. The 770 Club hosts visits by the CO and select crewmen to Tucson every year or two. In return, the boat hosts 20-25 club members who have the privilege of spending a day at sea aboard TUCSON.
For USS CHICAGO (SSN 721), there is the “721 Club”, the successor to the boat’s commissioning committee, which has adopted the crew and supported the families, even providing gifts to the crew’s children at Christmas, and donating Chicago artifacts to the ship. In return, it has entertained several distinguished visitor (DV) cruises in the past few years.
Crew visits, such as a recent trip by USS TOLEDO (SSN 769) representatives, often include presentations by the CO to NROTC units and grade schools, crew participation in local community relations (COMREL) projects such as Habitat for Humanity, and media exposure on radio, TV and in newspapers. Last year, our oldest submarine, USS BREMERTON (SSN-698), was adopted by the Navy League Bremerton-Olympic Peninsula Council. Visiting its namesake city, BREMERTON crew was honored for its service to our country. On Veterans Day last year in Texas, the CO, COB and four other crewmen of USS DALLAS (SSN 700), our third oldest submarine, visited their namesake.
Support committees raise funds through merchandise sales, raffles, auctions, special events and donations in order to sponsor various programs for their boats. These programs may include contributions to the ship’s MWR fund, providing exercise equipment or namesake artifacts that the Navy cannot provide, representing the boat’s namesake at change of command ceremonies, and hosting crew visits to the namesake city or state. For example, crewmen of USS PASADENA (SSN 752) have enjoyed support of the USS Pasadena Foundation which has allowed crew participation in the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Rose Bowl.
Many support committees, like the one sponsored by the Navy League Palm Beach Council for USS FLORIDA (SSGN 728), provide engraved plaques and cash awards to Sailors of the Year, and invite the ship’s leaders to the Council’s annual Navy Birthday Ball.
Being forward-deployed in Guam did not stretch the City bond to the breaking point for USS KEY WEST (SSN 722). Despite the 8,200-mile distance, some crewmen visited their namesake city, participated in a Veterans Day parade with a replica of their boat -a float built by the Key West Military Affairs Committee-and took back some Key West memorabilia to include in the ship’s interior upgrades so that locker doors could reflect scenes from the island city.
Known for the strong bond they hold with the City of Boise, crewmen of USS BOISE (SSN 764) often don Boise State University blue and orange colors in support of the Bronco football team. The USS Boise Committee is a group of community members and veterans dedicated to supporting the mission of their namesake submarine.
USS SPRINGFIELD (SSN 761) is named for both Spring-field, Ininois and Springfield, Massachusetts. USS SPRINGFIELD Bluejackets, a reunion organization for its former cruisers and its submarine, fosters communications and maintains camaraderie. Hanging from the overhead of the submarine crew’s mess is a Model 1863 Springfield musket manufactured at the historic Springfield Armory in Massachusetts. The crew refers to its mess hall as the “Springfield Armory”, a patriotic link between those who fought to protect the early republic and the submariners who help protect our nation today.
USS CHARLOTTE (SSN 766) has taken crew’s mess decor a step further. Its “Hornet’s Nest Cafe” has a Nascar racing mural with tributes to Dale Earnhardt painted by a disabled veteran, the late Ron Artis. Five other subs have Artis murals, including PASADENA’s mural depicting the Rose Bowl, USS ASHEVILLE (SSN 758) with its SubRock Cafe mural and USS GREENEVILLE (SSN-772) with its Davy Crockett Cafe mural. Such enhancements to crew’s mess decors can help win Ney Awards.
USS NEW MEXICO (SSN 779) has taken enhancements of onboard living quarters yet another step further. The Navy League New Mexico Council has a USS New Mexico Committee that petitioned for the name New Mexico, then sponsored all the commissioning week events, and is now in its 13th year of operation. It successfully requested and received three state appropriations which not only helped finance commissioning events and public outreach programs, but also the purchase of 120 bunk curtains and 11 passageway curtains to replace the blue shipyard-provided curtains. The crew selected fabric with a Southwest design that met standard military specifications. The committee also provided five special tabletops, four in the design of the state flag and one as a tribute to battleship NEW MEXICO, for the crew’s mess plus photo panels on 15 double-door lockers displaying panoramic views of New Mexico landscapes and hot air balloons for which the state is so well known.
The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce made USS ALBUQUERQUE (SSN 706) an honorary Chamber member. It has long supported the boat by hosting crew visits to the Duke City and of course many Albuquerque DVs have had lunch at the Roadnmner Grill aboard the boat. The New Mexico Council also supports ALBUQUERQUE as well as the Pearl Harbor-based USS SANT A FE (SSN 763). The USS Santa Fe Committee recently hosted two crew visits to the City Different within the span of two months! Besides the support provided by the USS New Mexico Committee, the restaurant La Posta de Mesilla near Las Cruces, which recently made USA Today’s list of top ten Mexican restaurants in the nation, has adopted NEW MEXICO’s galley, known as La Posla Abajo Del Mar or La Posta Beneath the Sea. The ship’s culinary specialists have been trained in New Mexico cuisine at the famous restaurant.
The culinary specialists aboard USS BUFFALO (SSN 715) have also been trained by professionals. Executive Chef Rick Scott of the world-famous Tokyo American Club spent two days at sea aboard the boat working in the galley with the mess team. Another restaurant chef has shared some signature Mississippi recipes with the galley crew of USS MISSISSIPPI (SSN 782) and in fact trained them in making gumbo, crab bisque and white chocolate bread pudding.
Charlotte Boy Scouts, for a number of years, have been building strong relationships with CHARLOTTE’s crew through letters and emails, and during a tour of the boat, presented prints of Charlotte’s skyline for bulkhead-mounting. Several scouts corresponded with the XO as part of the requirements for earning their Communications Merit Badge.
Kentucky submarine namesakes are in very good hands. With unbridled spirit, the USSVI Louisville Base established the “Thoroughbred Sub Club” dedicated to supporting the USS LOUISVILLE (SSN 724) and USS KENTUCKY (SSBN 737). The Club is a statewide network of Navy and submarine veterans, reservists, parents, educators and citizens-at-large. The Club coordinates crew visits and works closely with local and state governments, schools and civic leaders. While under construction, KENTUCKY was adopted by Worthington Elementary School in northeastern Kentucky! This long-standing relationship between 4th graders and crewmen continues with care packages and letters, and school memorabilia decorating the boat’s bulkheads. Over the years, the blue and gold crews have built a gazebo and picnic pavilion at the school, wired the school for Ethernet and held Q&A sessions with the students. And for families who have hosted crewmen in their private homes, pride runs very deep.
The blue and gold crews of another boomer, USS NEBRASKA (SSBN 739), have had the support of the Big Red Sub Club. These sailors are considered honorary Nebraskans when they visit schools and civic groups in the Cornhusker state.
In Missouri’s capital city, the citizens take great pride in their submarine. The Submarine Committee for USS JEFFERSON CITY (SSN 759) has hosted a website and many crew visits. The community loves to demonstrate its gratitude, respect and admiration for the crew’s daily sacrifices in defending our freedoms. Folks in the Show Me state sleep well at night knowing that men wearing silver and gold dolphins are ever-vigilant, ever-strong and ever-ready. Incidentally, as is often the case for the Navy League, the St. Louis Council served as the commissioning committee for USS MISSOURI (SSN 780).
There is a USS Oklahoma City Association with a top-rated website about its WWII and Vietnam warships as well as USS OKLAHOMA (SSN 723). The website has been ranked No. l of the top 25 military websites. The Association is known for its generous support such as donations to the boat’s MWR fund and gift cards for Sailors of the Year.
The Navy League Pittsburgh Council’s support team for USS PITTSBURGH (SSN 720) is called the Relief Crew. It is beginning its 281h year of outstanding support for the submarine’s crew and families. With PITTSBURGH’s motto Heart of Steel, visiting crewmen have been seen twirling the Terrible Towel at Steeler games. That goes both ways -when the boat returns from deployments, the Terrible Towel is flown from the bridge. And having the crew recognized before thousands of Steeler fans means a lot to these undersea warriors. Last October, PITTSBURGH’s skipper and seven crewmen visited the city, and in December, Joe Montana’s Ringgold High School-another football connection-adopted the boat. The Relief Crew provides college scholarships to dependents of current and former crewmen, SSN 720 hats to new sailors reporting aboard, and Steeler-autographed footballs for the crew’s mess. Also, it recognizes Sailors of the Year with savings bonds and hosts Christmas parties for the crew’s children.
On Pearl Harbor Day last year, at the Texas State Capitol, the Navy League Greater Austin Council and the University of Texas NROTC unit went to great lengths to present a set of 7-foot Texas longhorns to Pearl Harbor-based USS TEXAS (SSN 775). The horns replaced a smaller set that TEXAS had been displaying on the bridge when she enters or leaves port. All support for TEXAS does not emanate from Austin alone-the Navy League Greater Houston Council has formally adopted the boat.
In Virginia, USSVl’s USS Virginia Base and the Navy League Hampton Roads Council, support the crew and families of USS VIRGINIA (SSN 774). The Liaison Committee for USS NEWPORT NEWS (SSN 750), originally created by the City Council and comprised of the city manager and citizens-at-large as the submarine’s commissioning committee, serves as that crew’s home support team, managing homecomings, picnics, scholarship programs and holiday parties. USS ALEXANDRIA (SSN 757) also has a liaison committee which maintains strong ties between the submarine crew, families and citizens of Alexandria. Support includes monetary assistance for crewmen and families, travel sponsorship for namesake visits, and award programs.
Our submarines are key sea power resources that execute the Navy’s missions to deter those who seek to engage us in war, to safeguard our democratic freedoms, and to ensure our nation’s economic well-being by protecting our interests throughout the world. At the same time, our submarines are sea-going goodwill ambassadors carrying our city and state names worldwide while our home support teams instill a sense of pride among citizens citywide, statewide and nationwide. There is no doubt about it-in the submarine community, pride runs deep.