NSL UPDATE 02-27-2009

Tight-knit Trident Submariners Conduct Strategic Deterrence Missions

Story Number: NNS090226-03 Release Date: 2/26/2009 4:16:00 PM
By Gerry J. Gilmore, American Forces Press Service

USS MARYLAND, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors aboard the Trident strategic missile submarine USS Maryland (SSBN 738) prepared to start a series of underwater practice maneuvers known as “angles and dangles” in the Atlantic Ocean in February. Maryland’s (Gold) Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Jeffrey M. Grimes, and his chief of the boat and senior enlisted leader, Master Chief Michael C. McLauchlan, intently observed the actions of the officers and enlisted crew in the control room as the vessel silently tilted downward.

Trident strategic deterrent submarines – nicknamed “Boomers” – are capable of carrying as many as 24 Trident II D-5 nuclear ballistic missiles. “We’re there on the front line, ready to go,” Grimes said. Important missions, he said, are “happening every day in the deep, blue ocean." Tridents are nuclear-powered, Ohio-class submarines. At 560-feet long and 42-feet wide, they are the largest submarines in the U.S. Navy’s inventory.

Meanwhile, in the control room, Petty Officer 3rd Class Lamar Johnson, sat calmly at the helmsman’s station as he adroitly manipulated the yoke control that adjusted the submarine’s depth and direction. At about 400 feet under the waves, Maryland leveled off, then began ascending. After the exercise, Johnson, from Chicago, said piloting Maryland underwater is a matter of “paying attention, making sure you’re tracking the gauges.”

Sailors volunteer for submarine duty and are among the top performers across the Navy, explained McLauchlan. “There is a pretty rigid screening process to get a guy to come into the submarine force,” McLauchlan said. New submariners are subject to stringent qualification criteria when they report to their first boat, McLauchlan explained, while submarine veterans experience continued certifications during their careers.

During their first year while assigned to their first submarine, enlisted members are required to earn the coveted silver “dolphins” pin that reflects they’ve learned how to function as a team member aboard their submarine. Dolphins-pin recipients also must demonstrate knowledge of basic submarine operations, as well as the ability to work as a team member to put out fires and control flooding.

“They kill themselves to try to get those dolphins, because it’s very important to them,” said McLauchlan. “And we make it very special when we present them. Once they get those dolphins, it’s just the start for more and more for these kids.” Commissioned-officer submariners also must qualify to wear gold dolphins.

About a week earlier, the Maryland’s “Gold” crew under Grimes’ command embarked on its 53rd patrol from her homeport at Naval Submarine Base King’s Bay, Ga. Trident submarines have two crews, called Blue and Gold, which rotate patrols. One crew is at sea for 60 to 90 days, while the other trains ashore. In this way, the vessels can be employed at sea 70 percent of the time, when not undergoing scheduled maintenance in port.

Maryland is “a platform that is undetectable, that cannot be found, and yet, is in constant connection with the national command authorities,” Grimes explained. The submarine, he added, possesses “the stealth and power needed to respond to a global crisis with devastating force.” Maryland’s crew routinely performs damage control exercises – consisting of flooding and fire scenarios – as well as mock battle and strategic-deterrence drills during its patrols, so that if the real event should ever occur, “we’re ready to go,” Grimes said.

As Maryland’s commander, it’s important to impart to the crew “how they fit together on the ship as a team,” Grimes said. “They realize the mission is relevant, and they feel the importance of their job. They leave their families at home. They work long hours for me when we have the boat in for refit. It’s all about the mission,” explained Grimes.

The Navy’s attack and strategic-deterrent submarine force “is safe, secure and reliable and ready to perform its mission, 24/7,” said Capt. Kevin R. Brenton, who was along for part of Maryland’s patrol and is preparing to take command of Submarine Squadron 20 at Kings Bay. “We couldn’t do it without the extraordinary young men that man these submarines,” said Brenton. “They’re America’s best and brightest.”

Besides its 160-member crew, Maryland also hosted a group of journalists for a two-day orientation tour. Maryland was submerged for 24 hours during the journalists’ visit. A nuclear-powered Trident submarine like Maryland produces its own drinking water and oxygen, and, therefore can remain submerged nearly indefinitely, Grimes said, needing to surface only to take on food.

“We do all we can to make them comfortable down here,” said Chief Culinary Specialist Tony L. Thompson of his team’s efforts to provide the best meals possible for the Maryland’s crew. Thompson, a 20-year Navy veteran, said he enjoys the close-knit camaraderie that’s part of duty aboard submarines such as the Maryland. “I could walk around and talk to anybody around here,” said Thompson, as he enjoyed a plate of prime rib. “Everything is ‘one’ crew because you’ve got to depend on everybody.”

“I’m a cook,” Thompson said, “but at the same time, I can go and put out a fire.”

Near the end of the journalists’ visit, the submarine surfaced to make its rendezvous with the tugboat that would return them to shore.

Submariners belong to “a real tight community” of Sailors who perform a vital, unique mission, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle G. Fulmer from Dillon, S.C. “You have to be able to trust everybody with your life. … Any time, anything could go wrong, and if you’re beside it, you have to be ready to act on it,” said Fulmer.

“The mission of being out to sea, under water, is just cool, you know.”

Trident force reaches milestone” - The Navytimes.com, Posted Feb. 23, 2009

Navy Times Video “The Boomer Life

Navy News video reporting the Navy ceremony celebrating the 1000th TRIDENT Patrol

DSRV Program Retirement Ceremony 6 March 2009

The ceremony to honor the nearly 40 years of the Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle (DSRV) Program and name its successor, the Pressurized Rescue Module (PRM), will be held Friday afternoon, 6 March 2009, at 1300 on the DSU Compound on Naval Base Coronado.

Formal invitations will be sent to all who provide mailing addresses to LT Tim Householder at 619-545-6873 or timothy.hoouseholder@navy.mil . Mr. Will Longman, a former pilot and COB of DSRV-1 MYSTIC, is coordinating DSRV reunion activities for the remainder of the weekend. Interested parties are encouraged to contact him at wlongman@wavecable.com .

WWII Submarine War Patrol Reports

I have been informed by Jeff Nilsson, Executive Director of the Historical Naval Ship Association, that the entire collection of WWII Submarine War Patrol Reports are now available on line via the HNSA web site. They may be found at WWII Submarine Patrol Reports.

At the end of each war patrol of WWII, submarine commanders wrote a report on the patrol. These reports were used as the raw material to inform intelligence, improve tactics, evaluate commanders, etc. During WWII, over 1,550 patrol reports containing approximately 63,000 pages were generated. The pages were photographed, and reproduced on microfilm, and later, in 2008, the microfilm was scanned into digital format, and in 2009, it is now available here on line.

HNSA thanks John Clear EMC (SS) USN (Ret) and Dan Martini EMCM(SS), USN (Ret) for their generous donation of the digital copies of these war patrol reports used to create this online version. Thanks also go out to the Naval Undersea Museum for loaning their microfilm copies of the war patrol reports for the project. Many of the original documents without any reproduction artifacts may be found at the US National Archives and Record Administration in College Park, MD.

Eternal Patrol Report


FORCM(SS) Charles J. Dreer, USN (Ret)

FORCM (SS) Charles J. Dreer, USN (Ret.), 55, of Charleroi, formerly of White Oak, died Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009, in Mercy Hospital, Pittsburgh. Charles was a retired force master chief of the Submarine Atlantic Fleet with the Navy with 30 years service. Presently, he was the general manager of Progeny Systems Corp. in Charleroi. He was a graduate of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

In addition, to his parents, Charles is survived by his wife, Suzanne Loftus Dreer; children, Charles E. (Anna) Dreer, of Virginia Beach, Kimberly (Tim) Snoots, of Virginia Beach, and Jessica Loftus, of Charleroi; siblings, Claudia (Tom) O'Lear, of Newton Falls, Ohio, Beth (Carl) DeValkeneer, of North Huntingdon, Brenda (Rich) Stinner, of North Huntingdon, and William (Denise) Dreer, of North Huntingdon; five grandchildren, Tyler, Raiden, Michael, Phoenix and Kristian; also one niece and many nephews. Interment with full military honors will be held in Arlington National Cemetery sometime in May. At the family's request, memorial contributions have been suggested to Grace Baptist Church or Pennies from Heaven at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

CAPT Robert Henry Gautier, USN (Ret)

CAPT Robert Henry Gautier, USN (Ret.) passed away peacefully in his sleep on February 3, 2009. He entered the U.S. Naval Academy in the summer of 1942, graduating was in 1945 with the class of '46. After several years in the destroyers he attended submarine school in 1948 and began submarine duty in the Pacific Fleet including a tour as a flag lieutenant and aide to Commander Submarine Force Pacific Fleet. Tours on the East Coast followed in Tang (SS 563), Trout (SS 566), and his first command, USS Conger (SS 477). Orders to new construction in his home-town of Pascagoula to the USS Blueback (SS 581) gave him his second command and a move to San Diego followed. Other commands were a division of submarines, the USS Montrose (APA 212), Submarine Development Group One which included a successful deployment to the Azores with the DSV Trieste II to locate and photograph the USS Scorpion SSN 589, Amphibious Squadron Six in Norfolk, Virginia, and then to his command of the Naval Undersea Center in San Diego, California, from which he retired in June 1975. After retiring from the U.S. Navy, CAPT Gautier worked as a consultant with Bendix Oceantics Division, Global Marine Development, Inc. and Scientific Atlanta. He was the director of Lockheed Advanced Marine Systems, San Diego, California for several years.

Captain Gautier is survived by his wife of 63 years, Frances; son, Robert; daughter, Gayle Watring, and grandchildren, Kari Gautier Simpson and Christopher Gautier. In keeping with his request, there will be no Memorial Service. His ashes will be scattered at sea

LCDR Louis F. Bunte, USN (Ret)

LCDR Lou Bunte, USN (Ret) died January 29, 2009 after a long illness with cancer. A WWII Submarine Veteran, he was an active member of the Naval Submarine League Pacific Northwest Chapter. No further information was available.