Posted by: arbeam | April 22, 2015

16 Apr: Tour USS Pennsylvania ( SSBN-735)

USS Pennsylvania Tour 16 Apr 2015

ssbn735_patchIt was a beautiful Thursday afternoon when we headed over to Navy Base Kitsap to tour the USS Pennsylvania (SSBN-735). After gathering at the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, which is highly recommended for anyone interested in the history of US Naval Underwater Programs, we boarded a bus to the base and down to Delta Pier. After multiple security checkpoints, we arrived and were met by Chief Montford, who introduced us to the ship’s Commanding Officer, CDR Cage. After a gracious welcome to his boat, we were then split into 3 groups of 6 and left to the very capable hands of his petty officer tour guides.

USS Pennsylvania pierside Kings Bay GA 1995

USS Pennsylvania pierside Kings Bay GA 1995

Before we boarded the ship, we were allowed the opportunity to walk over the dry dock and view the USS Nevada going through refit in the dock (meaning it is out of the water). When you see a Trident in the water, you only see about 15% of the submarine, seeing it this way everyone saw what a truly impressive warship completely looks like. Our tour guides then led us back to the boat where we began our journey into understanding the world of a submariner. For security reasons, the engineering spaces are off limits for all visitors so our tour included the Operations and Missile Compartments. Creature comforts and personal spaces are certainly a rare commodity for these sailors during their patrols. 9 man bunkrooms, which can only be described as small phone booths turned on their sides and stacked in 3’s to form most of a room, represent their single private area. About 100 men share 2 heads (bathrooms that include 2 showers, 3 sinks and 3 toilets per room).

The long missile compartment reminds them daily of their deterrent job and chosen duty. Trident Missile Tubes USS RITwenty-four tubes painted various shades of orange to keep depth perception. A Crews Mess (dining area which seats a total of 40 at a time) that serves 4 meals a day. The submarine world operates on an 18 hour day, 6 hours on watch and 12 hours off watch. During these times the equipment maintenance must be completed, drills and simulations are run for proficiency and qualifications, cleanliness completed along with work outs and entertainment (movies shown after the evening and midnight meals).

The ship’s mission is always in their heads by the presence of the torpedo room and their immediate ability to defend themselves. The navigation center, sonar and radio rooms are designed to feed the CO, XO, and their Officers with all the necessary information to operate the ship safely and securely.

Technology updates and training keep these crews ready to take on all challenges and we were honored and touched by the dedication and professionalism of not just our guides but each sailor that stood by his workstation to take the time and explain to the average civilian how they contribute to the incredible machine that is the Pennsylvania.- Patrick Miller

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