Although the May 31st commissioning date for USS NORTH DAKOTA had to be postponed and is now reset for October 25, 2014, a group of people from New Town and elsewhere who had bought tickets and made plans decided to continue and go out to Groton, Connecticut, as originally planned. Our USS North Dakota Committee hosted a luncheon for them and North Dakotan ETCM Tim Preabt, the Chief of the Boat, arranged a tour of USS NORTH DAKOTA for them. Here is an article in the Minot Daily News about their trip with photos provided by Bill Wilber.
NEW TOWN – Twenty-six people with a northwest North Dakota group recently visited the Naval submarine base and toured the USS North Dakota submarine at Groton, Conn. Initially, the group planned to attend the commissioning of the USS North Dakota on May 31 but the ceremony was postponed because of redesign work being done on the submarine.
The trip was sponsored by the New Town American Legion Post 290 and Byron Kulland Chapter 487 of the Vietnam Veterans of America. William Wilber, a member of the New Town American Legion post, provided the following account of the trip:
All were up early Friday to be at the base and go through security check. The first event was attending Basic Enlisted Sub School graduation. All of the 60-plus graduates look so young and eager. From there, we split into two groups and toured three sub school trainers. The “tank” is a 30-foot wide and 60-foot deep pool. There are three tubes or capsules in the tank for practice escaping from a submarine. The instructor explained that the trainee must do all steps correctly or there will be an “incident.” They have had accidents but no casualties. Another trainer is for all trainees and torpedomen. It had torpedoes and missiles and they train all to ready the tube to shoot a torpedo. The torpedomen get the full training as a specialty school. They showed us a cruise missile and launch tubes. Everyone had questions and the guides gave as much info as they could tell us. The last trainer was fire fighting. They train how to extinquish all classes of fires. Fire is the most dangerous emergencies on a submarine as it uses up the oxygen very quickly. There’s no 911 so the crew has to be able to put all of them out on their own.
After we had lunch in the sub base galley, we moved to the Submarine Force Museum and USS Nautilus. The group split again with half going to the USS North Dakota and the others getting a wonderful guided tour of the museum and Nautilus. The tour of USS N.D. was awesome in the true sense of the word. No pictures allowed on Electric Boat Shipyard or the USS N.D. There was tight security check in again and down to the boat. It is in dry dock at this time so we got a view of the whole outside of the boat. What a wonderful machine. The crew was all shined up and the boat was clean and new. We received a tour of the front part of the boat as there is just too much classified equipment in the back half. They couldn’t even tell us how many blades the screw (propeller) had. It was covered when we went on board. Tight quarters and good food on submarines but the food has to be stored in crevices where they find them.
Jerome Jarski, sergeant-at-arms for the New Town Legion post, said Gordon Blake, an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes and American Legion member, designed the patch for the jackets the Legion members had made for the trip. The patch has an eagle feather in the middle with “SSN 784″ printed below the eagle feather. A circle of 50 stars surround the eagle feather and “SSN 784.” The words, “Spirit Of The Fierce Fighting Warrior USS North Dakota” surround the outside of the 50 stars. Jarski said an eagle feather was presented to the ship’s crew for the submarine. The ship’s leadership liked the patch so much that they would like to have patches for crewmembers to put on jackets. Jarski said the local group is working on getting patches for them.
Some members of the Legion have discussed raising funds for the USS North Dakota crew to help with an emergency fund for the ship’s family needs.