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Senator Tom Brewer
I wanted to follow up from last week and complete the update of the adventure on board the submarine USS Nebraska.
As a quick refresher the USS Nebraska is an Ohio class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN 739). In layman’s terms there are two major classes of submarines: the fast attack submarine, and what is referred to as “Boomers,” the heavy large submarines like the (560 ft) Ohio class that can launch in a car now ballistic missiles look like the Trident I and II. Just so everyone understands, this submarine carries aboard it more destructive power than all of munitions that were used in all of the countries combined in the Second World War!
The opportunity to see the USS Nebraska was made possible by Allen Beermann and the “Nebraska Big Red Sub Club”. Of all the ships that are named after states, Nebraska is the only one that maintains a close relationship between the people of Nebraska and the crew on board that vessel. There are “Go Big Red” stickers and red “N”s all over the inside of the submarine, and every time there is an announcement over the PA system it ends with “Go Big Red”. There is a true love and bond between the crew of that vessel and the people of Nebraska.
The group of Nebraska VIPs arrived at Seattle and were transferred to a holding area where we were briefed on the mission and all electronic devices were taken from us (Because of the security requirements). We were restricted to one small plastic bag large enough for toothbrush and deodorant. The challenge is that you leave port aboard a ship that is referred to as a “blocking ship”. It is manned by the Coast Guard and when out to sea it is to rendezvous with the USS Nebraska somewhere on the high seas. The difficult task was to transfer by a gang plank from one ship to another as they were moving. On the horizon the black hull of the monstrous USS Nebraska was rising out of the sea into view and the full impact of what we were about to do became clear.
I have travelled the world, seen dozens of countries, fought in wars, but at this moment in time this was one of the most impactful and memorable experiences I will ever have. I believe this would be a challenging task even if you are a Navy sailor. They did have a life vest for us and a Navy diver on the submarine to fetch us if necessary, but fortunately no one took a dip in the ocean and we all transferred aboard the submarine with no incidents.
Once on board we were given a safety briefing and divided into small groups that toured the different compartments and we were given general overview information about the capabilities of the submarines and the mission that they had just completed. The Captain welcomed us – and the crew took very good care of the Nebraskans who had come to visit. I think they were glad to see some new faces. Remember, they had been at sea for months, and were in route back to the port in Bremerton to change from the current crew, the “blue crew”, to the new crew who will take the USS Nebraska back out after it’s refit, the “gold crew”.
All of the VIP visitors gathered in the crew’s mess room. A room about 20‘ x 30‘, the mess is the largest space we would see below deck other than the torpedo room. Everywhere else, passageways and workspace are tight. Sailors step between, over and around the masses of equipment that they maintained, including the forest of nuclear missile tubes. I was a little shocked to see that the sailors slept between the nuclear missile launch tubes in bunks that were only 18 inches in height, stacked 4 high (no personnel space). They live a very isolated life.
You must remember that because of the nature of the mission, they cannot communicate regularly. There is no internet service aboard the boat and the Navy relays emails only occasionally. This is a mission security requirements. Their job is to be undetected wherever they are in the world. They keep all of the other people with their new killer weapons honest. They cannot target United States first because they cannot find those nuclear missiles that are aboard the submarines.
For all of the negatives of working and living aboard a submarine, one of the major advantages is the chow. After spending a lifetime of eating Army chow and MRIs, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality, quantity, and 24/7 availability of outstanding food aboard this Navy vessel.
It was a blessing to see the passion, professionalism, and dedication from the crew aboard the USS Nebraska. I believe that many Americans do not appreciate the sacrifice that they make in order to provide this umbrella of peace for our nation. They understand that if they ever had to do their mission of launching those missiles, the world as we know it will have changed, they likely will have lost their families. These are young men and women who are 18 to 22 years old for the most part. That is a tremendous burden to put on their shoulders, yet we do that without fully understanding the sacrifice we are asking them to make.
We had numerous briefings on the different portions of the vessel and their capabilities all the way to the torpedo room, and finding out that each torpedo is worth $2 million and the range classified somewhere beyond 30,000 yards (17+ Miles). We had a final opportunity, we were allowed to go onto the uppermost part of the coning tower and watch as a submarine came into Puget Sound. It was absolutely breathtaking, to see the water breaking in front of that giant submarine and to look out to the right and left and see the 10 Coast Guard and Navy escort vehicles bringing it safely back into port to the waiting families.
This was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will never forget. I cannot thank Commander Wadsley and the crew of the USS Nebraska enough for allowing a few Nebraskans to come and see a snapshot of their lives and mission. The citizens of the United States and Nebraska are blessed to have individuals who are wearing all of the different uniforms of our country, and doing these types of difficult missions all over the world, keeping us safe.
Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. or mail a letter to: Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1202, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call us at (402) 471-2628.