Bremerton, Washington. “It’s always a pleasure to visit a port in which support from the community is outstanding. But here, it’s simply overwhelming! This city is like a second home port for us.” With these words, USS BREMERTON (SSN 698) Commanding Officer, Commander Wes Bringham, opened his remarks at a packed reception hosted by City Mayor, Patty Lent. The reception capped a busy six-day namesake visit by the Fleet’s oldest active submarine to the scenic Puget Sound port. But as CDR Brigham stressed, “We don’t refer to our ship as old–‘old’ is an excuse; rather our ship is an ‘American Classic!'”
Spearheaded by Navy Leaguer Dr. Byron Faber, the submarine was adopted in January 2011 by the City of Bremerton and a partnership of organizations across the local Bremerton community led by the Bremerton/Olympic Peninsula Council. With help from donations, the Council supports the crew’s holiday parties, sends gifts like DVDs, books and gift cards to break-up deployments, and sponsors goodwill visits for crew members back to the Seattle area.
CDR Brigham noted that 89% of the crew was born after the ship was commissioned. He is the ship’s 14th Commanding Officer. Other local notables who have commanded BREMERTON in the past include NLUS Area President CAPT Alan Beam, USN (ret) (#3), who is also on the Board of Directors of the Bremerton/Olympic Peninsula Council; Council member CAPT Jerry Logan, USN (ret) (#10); and CAPT Thomas Zwolfer (#11), current Commander of Naval Base Kitsap.
Faber and Beam, in conjunction with the Public Affairs staff of Submarine Group Nine, the City of Bremerton, and host submarine USS NEBRASKA (SSBN 739), assembled a busy schedule for the officers and crew during their six-day visit. Events included:
• A welcome reception hosted by the NLUS at Sam Adams Brewhouse on Naval Base Kitsap–Bremerton shortly after the ship’s arrival;
• Ship tours and interviews with local media outlets, local community and military organizations (including the local Sea Cadets Scorpion Squadron), and prospective Navy recruits in conjunction with Naval Recruiting Office Silverdale, WA;
• A luncheon with former Commanding Officers;
• A reception for the ship’s officers hosted by Commander, Submarine Group 9, Rear Admiral (Lower Half) Dave Kriete, immediately followed by another hosted by the officers of USS NEBRASKA;
• A community outreach event to beautify the City of Bremerton’s Hal Fischler Park;
• A reception for the entire crew hosted by the NLUS and McCloud’s Grill House;
• A private dinner for the Commanding Officer and Executive Officer and their families at Faber’s home;
• A reception for the “Goat Locker” (Chief Petty Officers) hosted at CAPT Beam’s home on Rich Passage;
• A softball challenge against USS NEBRASKA (Bad Fish whooped Big Red, but Big Red later claimed they were just being good hosts!); and
• And finally, a reception at City Hall sponsored by Mayor Lent the evening before departure.
In recognition of Faber’s continuing strong support of the submarine and its crew, he was invited, along with Bremerton City Council President, Greg Wheeler, to ride aboard the submarine’s sail as it arrived at its berth at Naval Base Kitsap–Bremerton sporting a Seattle Seahawks 12th Man flag. Several days later, Mayor Lent remarked Wheeler “still has not taken that smile off his face, so I know he really enjoyed the ride!”
At the Mayor’s reception, CDR Bringham also praised Faber for his efforts. “Byron is a bundle of energy. I’m not sure what he runs-on, but he is the one more than anyone who has put a lot of work into making this a great visit.” The Skipper then presented Faber a commemorative photo of the ship at periscope depth plainly visible from above in crystal clear water–something Bringham joked, “…is a really bad thing for us.” The back of the framed photo was signed by the ship’s officers and Chief Petty Officers.
In a letter commemorating the port visit, U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) remarked, “Today is a proud day for the City of Bremerton and its citizens, and I am certain that the dedicated members of the Navy League will provide tremendous support to the crew and their families.”
Kilmer’s District Representative, Andrea Roper, read the letter at the Mayor’s reception. It continued, “I am thankful that the Bremerton/Olympic Peninsula Chapter of the Navy League is demonstrating this area’s support for the crew of its namesake submarine. This partnership is a testament to the patriotism of each and every Navy League member and a shining example of how much this community supports service members and their families.”
Also at the Mayor’s reception, Faber helped present 2014 Navy League Awards to four of BREMERTON’s outstanding enlisted sailors. Faber first started presenting the awards in 2010 prior to formal adoption. But every year, the awards continue as part of the on-going sponsorship. Faber and Mayor Lent presented each awardee with engraved NLUS plaques following introduction by the CDR Bringham, and Chief of the Boat, Command Master Chief (Submarines) Wade Tannberg.
Culinary Specialist Second Class (Submarines) Kory Wilson received the Culinary Service Excellence Award, Machinist’s Mate Second Class (Submarines) Mason Dixon received the Engineering Excellence Award, Electronics Technician Second Class (Submarines) Logan Neve received the Navigation Excellence Award, and Sonar Technician Second Class (Submarines) Shane Madak received the Weapons Excellence Award.
Bringham and Tannberg also impressed the audience at City Hall with a formal ceremony in which Seaman Electronics Technician Dmitri Yuhasz was awarded his submarine dolphin insignia for completing his professional qualification as a submariner. Afterwards, Mayor Lent thanked Bringham for sharing the time-honored tradition, “Very few civilians in this room have been able to witness such a ceremony. Our congratulations to you, Seaman Yuhasz–well earned. Thank you for letting us be a part of the celebration.”
USS BREMERTON (SSN 698) is the second United States Navy ship to be named in honor of the Kitsap Peninsula city long associated with both the U.S. Navy and Submarine Force. The first USS BREMERTON (CA 130) was a BALTIMORE-class heavy cruiser laid down by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation at Camden, NJ, on February 1, 1943, launched on July 2, 1944 by Miss Elizabeth McGowan, and commissioned on April 29, 1945 with CAPT John Mallard in command. The first BREMERTON saw action in the Korean War, as well as peacetime operations before and after, and was awarded two China Service Medals. The cruiser was decommissioned in 1960 and scrapped in 1974.
The original ship’s bell from the cruiser BREMERTON is installed as part of permanent commemorative display in the Norm Dicks Government Center building in downtown Bremerton. It is located on the sixth floor elevator lobby and includes panels paralleling the visits by the cruiser and the submarine to the City of Bremerton. One panel depicts a 1948 Bremerton Sun newspaper page, announcing the first visit of the cruiser, as well as providing details of the bell, which was funded by the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce and built at the nearby Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
Hal Fischler Park, nicknamed “Hal’s Corner,” commemorates a co-founder of the original Navy League Bremerton Council. It contains an anchor and photoengraved images from the heavy cruiser USS BREMERTON (CA 130), and two Mark 12 Quad Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft gun mounts from USS WEST VIRGINIA (BB 48). At her reception for the submarine BREMERTON, Mayor Lent announced her intention to secure the ship’s sail and upper rudder to add to the namesake memorabilia already at the park.
Article By Kevin Torcolini