Aloha Bremerton Supporters –
I write this Captain’s Log entry a little more than two weeks after we returned from USS Bremerton’s 15th deployment. The deployment was long, but very fulfilling. I was pleased to see the results of the hard work that each crewmember had put in during the pre-deployment period. I wish that you could see the great things that the crew did during the deployment. You should be proud of them. I know that I am.
Bremerton left Pearl Harbor in mid-December and transited westbound to our first port visit in Okinawa, spending the Christmas holiday there. The crew enjoyed the visit, exploring sights and activities in Okinawa ranging from the downtown markets in Naha, to the sights and sounds of the “American Village” outside Kadena Air Force Base. We got underway shortly before the New Year.
After Okinawa, we spent about 7 weeks at sea, conducting a couple of
exercises and spending some time at sea during an operations period. During this time, the crew ensured that the ship could stay at sea. With a 35-year old “American Classic,” you can imagine that there were plenty of opportunities for the crew to come up with innovative solutions to fix gear that allowed us to stay at sea. What I was proudest of was the teamwork that I saw. Whether Machinery, Auxiliary, and Electrical Divisions joining forces to fix the evaporator, or Sonar, Fire Control, and Reactor Control Divisions working with Radio to ensure that our ESM gear is working correctly, it was eye watering to see the Sailors working together to ensure that the ship could stay at sea and accomplish the mission.
We moored in Singapore in late February. Bremerton first visited Singapore in 1983, so it felt very satisfying to bring the ship back to familiar waters. While getting there through the southern South China Sea and the Strait of Singapore was challenging (we counted close to 150 merchants surrounding us during our transit into port), Singapore was a great port visit!
A good number of friends and family were able to visit during our trip to Singapore, and we all had a wonderful time. The crew enjoyed visiting the Marina Bay Sands hotel, stopping by Raffles Hotel for a Singapore Sling, getting some famous chili crab at hawker stands, and seeing other cultures in Chinatown and Little India.
Following our visit in Singapore, we conducted an equatorial crossing, venturing into the seas of King Neptune and Davy Jones, then headed north back out of the South China Sea. After some time in the East China Sea, we visited Chinhae, South Korea. Again, Bremerton’s first visit to Chinhae was in 1983. Korea was great! There is a tradition in Korea that a young girl in traditional Korean dress meets the crew on the pier, giving the CO a lei, and the CO provides a teddy bear (you can see her holding the bear with an aloha shirt). The crew enjoyed seeing temples and baseball games in Busan, and the Koreans were great hosts, treating some of the crew to Korean barbecue. After our port visit, we improved our partnership with the Republic of Korea Navy, conducting two bilateral exercises in the “East Sea,” or Sea of Japan, before heading back into the East China Sea for a port visit in Sasebo.
Sasebo was great visit. It provided us with an opportunity to conduct some repairs was very relaxing. My crew took the opportunity to explore in and around Sasebo, and some even made trips to Nagasaki, Fukuoka, and Osaka.
After Sasebo, we conducted some training preps for future operations, then welcomed aboard my boss in the Western Pacific, Rear Admiral Bill Merz, along with VADM Doman, the Commander of the Japanese Submarine Force for a VIP cruise. The crew performed well, and all left knowing that the Bad Fish was doing great things on WestPac. In Sasebo, my new XO, LCDR Greg Crosby, arrived onboard in Sasebo to start his turnover with LCDR Jeff Fassbender.
After completing our next period of operations, we transited east to our fifth and final port visit in Apra Harbor, Guam.
Guam was a bittersweet time for us. We were happy to be transiting home following the port visit, but we were sad to say goodbye to some of our shipmates who went ashore from Guam, including Jeff Fassbender, my XO who is now enroute to DC to work on the Joint Staff. We also had some new shipmates arrive in Guam including my relief, CDR Travis Zettel, a western Washington native. He will relieve me in a Change of Command ceremony in Pearl Harbor on August 5th.
After leaving Guam, we conducted a short transit and returned to Pearl Harbor in mid-June, and the crew has been enjoying a well-deserved stand-down.
During my discussions with Rear Admiral Merz, he shared some of his thoughts on having Bremerton in theater. He liked having Bad Fish in the WestPac because we are fast, he could send us where he needed us quickly, and he knew that the crew would be trained and ready to accomplish the mission when we arrived. That says a lot for the drive and dedication of the Bremerton crew.
Bremerton had a lot to show for the fifteenth WestPac deployment. First off, we were able to remain at sea on an 87% operational tempo – very impressive considering that Bremerton is the oldest most classic submarine in our fleet (As a reminder, we don’t call the ship old, as that is an excuse for poor performance – rather we call the ship “The American Classic”). Even so, maintaining the ship at sea does not come easy. I wish that you could have seen the crew overcoming obstacles and equipment failures to keep the ship at sea. Day in and day out, the crew came up with innovative ways to ensure that we could accomplish the mission. I am proud of each member of the Bad Fish crew, and I would sail to the ends of the earth with them.
The crew grew fantastically during our deployment. 21 of our shipmates earned their submarine dolphins (side note – we don’t “give” dolphins to anyone – you earn your dolphins). Our shipmates also pushed advanced qualifications. During our deployment, 10 of our shipmates qualified Chief of the Watch, 6 qualified Engineering Watch Supervisor, and 5 qualified Diving Officer of the Watch. This number of qualifications is impressive, and it gives us the “bench depth” to be able to operate at a high level into the future. I am extremely proud of the Bad Fish crew, and I am confident that the ship will continue performing exceptionally in the future.
On August 5th, Travis Zettel will relieve me as Commanding Officer and will begin the preparations for Bremerton’s next deployment. These preparations will include a short dry docking period in Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, followed by deployment preparations. Based on the ship’s excellent material condition, the Submarine Force leadership is looking for options to keep Bremerton operational past our scheduled “end of life” date. It is difficult to predict the future, but I expect that Bremerton could change homeport for the final time to her namesake as early as mid-2018 and as late as mid-2019, following the Bad Fish’s last deployment. I am confident that this crew will continue to perform exceptionally throughout deployment preparations, during Bremerton’s next deployment, and during our final homeport shift to Bremerton for decommissioning.
I very much appreciate the support that the city of Bremerton, the Navy League, and former Bremerton crewmembers have provided throughout our deployment and during my entire tour. I will continue to be Bremerton’s biggest fan after August 5th. I hope to meet many of you in Bremerton during the decommissioning ceremony – I expect that it will be an event to remember. Until then, we’ll keep charging on, driving fast, and taking care of the American Classic – the best ship in the fleet!
CDR Wes Bringham