Old Updates

Navy League New Mexico Council Wins 1st Place in National Navy League Photo Contest

July 2, 2012

Courtesy of The Navy Leaguer

Photo contest winner Rick Carver is new to the Navy League, but not to photography or to the U.S. Navy.

Rick is a retired photojournalist and Navy Veteran from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Rick became a part of the Navy League about two years ago when his fellow USS New Mexico Commissioning Committee members “coerced” him in to joining the New Mexico Council. Rick traveled to Port Canaveral to take the winning photograph.

CWO George Smith, USN(ret) on left and CDR George Perez, Jr., USN on right, at the Battleship New Mexico tribute table in the crew’s mess of Submarine New Mexico, September 20, 2011, during crew-hosted barbecue and boat tour at Port Canaveral, FL,

Rick’s winning photo was taken as part of a 400-photo book he edited, “A Year or So in the Life of New Mexico”. Rick had the opportunity to photograph the commissioning of the USS New Mexico as part of the project, which lead him to attend a tour and barbeque at the ship. The book is a benefit for the Esperanza Shelter for Battered Families, and received strong military support for the effort.

In the winning photo, CWO George Smith, USN(ret) and CDR George Perez, Jr., USN, are discussing how modern-day submarines compare to the fleet boats of WWII. George Smith served on the battleship USS NEW MEXICO (BB-40) in 1939 and 1940, and then volunteered for submarine duty. He passed away in March 2012 at age 95.

Rick is considering a sequel to the successful book, but is currently enjoying the trip to the Navy League convention in Hawaii that he won for his photo!


June 12, 2012

NEW MEXICO Friends, Families and Supporters,


It has been a little over five months since my last update on the status of NEW MEXICO and her crew. Since that update, NEW MEXICO has continued her strong performance with three major command inspections in a two-month stretch, a major Chief of Naval Operations (CNO)-level US-UK exercise, our first major inport maintenance availability in Groton, CT, and, finally, a return to Submarine Command Course (SCC) operations. January started with the completion of our acoustic trials where the crew conducted intensive operations evaluating the ship's acoustic health at the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) in the vicinity of Andros Island, Bahamas. Following those trials, we rapidly repositioned off the coast of Florida to serve as the opposition force for the ENTERPRISE Strike Group. This series of operations allowed NEW MEXICO to hone her skills against the most capable surface warships in the world. It was a valuable opportunity to continue building on our tactical skills. Upon completion, we returned to the Bahamas for the highly visible Fellowship 12 Exercise, a head-to-head event against the newest and most capable United Kingdom SSN, the HMS ASTUTE. The exercise pitted two of the world's most advanced submarines against each other over a three-day stretch under the watchful eye of the Chief of Naval Operations, the First Sea Lord, and a number of other submarine force leaders for both countries. NEW MEXICO performed exceptionally well during this exercise against a very capable opponent. All embarked during the three-day event left NEW MEXICO with an appreciation for the incredible capabilities of NEW MEXICO and her crew. Needless to say, the three-day event was a smashing success. The January run culminated with NEW MEXICO completing her Tactical Readiness Evaluation, a demanding, five-day event in simulated combat conditions designed to stress the ship and crew. Again, the crew's performance was outstanding allowing the NEW MEXICO to complete the evaluation nearly five months ahead of schedule.

February and early March had NEW MEXICO pierside for our first regularly scheduled and much needed maintenance availability. Following the availability, the ship put back out to sea for a month during which time we completed an engineering assessment and the Supply Management Inspection with strong performances in both. After a short inport period loading 20 exercise weapons, NEW MEXICO conducted three weeks of intensive operations including simulated combat operations against a myriad of U.S. Navy surface warships as well as head-to-head exercise firings against the submarines USS SCRANTON and USS SPRINGFIELD. The crew again received outstanding training and experience during these operations, building on our experience from SCC-30 last November. As many of you remember, command course operations are conducted with Prospective Executive and Commanding Officers onboard to exercise submarine mission areas in as close to combat-like conditions as possible. In this regard SCC-32 was no different with NEW MEXICO executing even more challenging operations than we had in SCC-30. Despite the demanding schedule, the crew was able to enjoy some well-earned liberty in Mayport and Port Canaveral, FL before returning to Groton, CT mid-May.

As always, the time period saw several NEW MEXICO warriors departing with new faces taking their place. We bid farewell to the Executive Officer, LCDR Roe, who was able to return to Washington, D.C and rejoin with his family after a challenging geobachelor tour. We also said goodbye to LT Becknell, LT Wiesner, ETC(SS) Echols, ET1(SS) Moser, MM2(SS) Jobes, ET1(SS) Jordan, ET1(SS) Marfield, ET1(SS) Scott, ITS1(SS) Hewitt, ITS2(SS) Hale, MM1(SS) Halacsy, and STSSN(SS) Adair. Each of these outstanding sailors made significant contributions to the ship and they will all be missed. New faces onboard include our new Executive Officer, LCDR Mike Grubb, who joins us from Naval Reactors in Washington, D.C., our first Professional Exchange Program officer from England, Lt Main, previously served on HMS SCEPTRE, LTJG Ball, LTJG Bergeron, CSSN Boyd, EM1(SS) Brandt, ET2 Degroat, ETSN Dolecal, MM2 Earhart, ETC(SS) Edwards, MM2 Hai, ET1 Harms, ET3 Hewett, MM1(SS) Kitko, MM2 Knoble, STSSN Pluche, MMFA Robinson, and MM2 Warfield. Welcome aboard to our newest crewmembers.

We were also fortunate to advance several sailors onboard in the last five months including the Chief of the Boat, now MASTER Chief Petty Officer Eric Murphy. Joining the Master Chief in advancement were CS1(SS) Ingalls, MM1(SS) Scanlon, STS2(SS) Deline, ET2 Degroat, ET2(SS) Hogan, MM2 Hai, MM2 Warfield, ET2(SS) Jones, LS2(SS) Woods, STS3(SS) LaClair, ET3(SS) Juillerat, and MM3(SS) Cowden. In addition, several officers were promoted including LT Judy, LT Rose, LT Hicks, LTJG Ball, LTJG Bergeron, and LTJG Connell. Congratulations to all our recently promoted sailors and their families.

Sadly, as many of you are probably aware, we lost one of our most avid supporters and a true American hero, CWO4 George H. Smith, USN (ret.), who passed away on 15 March 2012. I had the great fortune of meeting George Smith, a veteran from USS NEW MEXICO (BB 40), on several occasions. Each meeting with him was truly an honor and it was truly a privilege to have met one of America's inspirational, unsung heroes. There is no doubt he touched every member of NEW MEXICO's crew in some manner while he was onboard. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and loved ones.

Reflecting back on our time since August 2011, the ship has made incredible strides in all areas, spending nearly six months of time at sea in the progress. As we now prepare to enter the pre-deployment phase of our cycle, it is impressive to see the accomplishments of the crew in bringing NEW MEXICO from a shipyard asset to one ready to deploy on a moments notice. Looking forward, we turn our attention to our first deployment for the ship and many of the crew. Scheduled to deploy to the European Command AOR in early 2013, the bulk of the next six months will be spent honing our tactical skills and improving our material condition to support the six-month deployment. Despite all the successes the ship has enjoyed thus far, the culminating event for many will be NEW MEXICO's first deployment. This will conclude a journey for most of our sailors that began in the shipyards of Newport News Shipbuilding and Electric Boat. For NEW MEXICO sailors past and present, the importance of the first deployment and the journey from shipyard to the front lines will probably be one of the single, most rewarding experiences of their careers. I salute each and every one of these sailors for their dedication and effort to get NEW MEXICO to where she is today. We would not be here without their hard work and sacrifice and without the love and support of their families and friends.

Warmest Regards,

CDR George Perez
Commanding Officer

New Mexico Sailors Reunite at UNM NROTC Commissioning Ceremony

June 1, 2012

Photos courtesy of UNM NROTC

On May 10th, the UNM NROTC unit commissioned three Marine Corps 2nd Lieutenants and 10 Navy Ensigns in back-to-back commissioning ceremonies at the UNM Continuing Education Center. A reception at the Naval Science Building followed. Captain Larry Olsen, NROTC Commanding Officer, invited Captain Rob Dain, former Commanding Officer of PCU New Mexico, to serve as the honored guest speaker for the Navy commissioning ceremony. And Rob served as the commissioning officer for Ensign Kyle Decker. Kyle graduated with honors with a BSME degree and orders to USS Independence (LCS-2) in San Diego.

Both Captain Dain and Ensign Decker are natives of New Mexico, in fact the northwest corner of the state. Rob was born in Shiprock, NM and raised in Cedar Crest and Tijeras. Kyle’s hometown is Aztec, NM. Both served aboard New Mexico from 2006 to 2008, before Kyle was accepted in the Navy’s Seaman-to-Admiral program.

Rob Dain has been assigned as Deputy Commander, Submarine Squadron 6 in Norfolk. The transfer allows Rob and his family to move back into their Virginia home. Rob's last Submarine Group Two assignment is very interesting. Aboard the ocean-going tug USNS Apache (ATF-172), with destroyer and frigate escorts, he will be in charge of towing the decommissioned Los Angeles-class submarine Memphis (SSN-691), sans propeller and reactor core, from Kittery, ME through the Panama Canal to Bremerton, WA.

On behalf of the USS New Mexico Committee, chairman Dick Brown presented Capt. Dain with a CD containing 60 photographs of his time as CO of PCU New Mexico.

Dick Brown, USS New Mexico Committee, greets fellow New Mexican Kyle Decker

Capt. Rob Dain swears in Ensign Kyle Decker

Kyle's parents pin on his Ensign bars

Memorial Day 2012

June 1, 2012

Every year, USS New Mexico Committee arranges for a sales & promotion booth at the City of Albuquerque's Veterans Memorial Park on Memorial Day. This year was no exception.

Here are two photos by Rick Carver of Memorial Day 2012. Under the canopy are Charlie Brown, WWII Submarine Veteran; Emilee (who designed USS New Mexico's ship's crest) and her dad, Pat Sena; and Capt Tom Gutierrez, USN(Ret) and wife Rebecca Vigil. Not shown but who also provided their expertise and assistance were Leo Davis, WWII Submarine Veteran, Capt. Rod Stewart, USN(Ret) and Rick Carver, committee photographer.

It was a beautiful day to reflect on those military service men and women who defend our nation and protect our freedoms. It was also a perfect time to raise awareness of our state namesake nuclear submarine. The crew of USS New Mexico has spent most of the last five months at sea, ready at a moment's notice to defend against those who would do harm to the United States.

MAY 7, 2012
505-343-1186 (Home)
505-803-3640 (Cell)


Today, Jim Fordice, President of the Navy League New Mexico Council, issued this statement, "I am very pleased to announce that our council has been designated as an "Outstanding Council for 2011" by the Navy League of the United States. Only 10 councils out of more than 250 are designated as Outstanding. In the last four years our New Mexico Council has been designated as Outstanding three times and once was designated as an Honorable Mention. Thanks to all who participated for the hard work and dedication that you have brought to supporting the Sea Services in New Mexico."

Other NLUS Council receiving this award include Atlanta Metropolitan, Camden-Kings Bay, Colorado Springs, Hampton Roads, Imperial Valley, Long Island, National Capital, Pensacola and San Diego.

USS New Mexico Dives into Military & Veterans Day at the Legislature

February 13, 2012

Photos courtesy of Rick Carver

On February 6th, in the State Capitol Rotunda, the USS New Mexico Committee joined other veterans and military support organizations in Vet Day festivities. This annual legislative event was jointly sponsored by the NM Dept. of Military Affairs (DMA) and the NM Dept. of Veterans’ Services (DVS).

Vet Day Ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda

Manning our exhibit were committee members Damon Runyan, Rick Carver and Dick Brown. The program included addresses by Governor Susana Martinez, MG Kenny Montoya of DMA and Col. Tim Hale of DVS. The Governor honored Navajo Code Talker Chester Nez, 91, last of the original 29 who developed the secret code.

USS New Mexico Committee Chairman Dick Brown and Code Talker Chester Nez. On December 6, 2004, Chester delivered a Navajo blessing at USS New Mexico’s Naming Ceremony.

Vet Day at the State Legislature allowed for some great exposure for Navy League and our three namesake submarines, plus some very good interactions with Governor Martinez, Adjutant General Montoya, Senator/RADM Bill Payne, NM State Police Chief Robert Shilling and many others.

These two Army National Guardsmen stopped by our exhibit table. They are part of the National Guard’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Response Team. The CST on their vests stands for Crisis Support Team, a five-state group ready to support each other in the event of a CBRN incident.

After her address, Brown presented the Governor with one of the committee’s new USS New Mexico coffee mugs, on behalf of the submarine’s officers and crew.

Governor Martinez in front of the Navy flag

USS New Mexico Carries 1,000 Centennial First Day Covers Under the Sea


February 9, 2012

By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, Commander, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- Stamp collectors looking for a unique addition to their collections will be interested in obtaining just one of 1,000 New Mexico centennial first-day covers, or cachets, recently carried under the sea aboard USS New Mexico (SSN 779).

The first-day covers, or cachets, were brought back to land when USS New Mexico returned to port Feb. 7. A cover, or cachet, is a printed envelope commemorating a special event such as a submarine keel-laying, christening, launching or commissioning. In this special case, with the postal service's New Mexico Centennial stamp affixed on the cachets, they become essentially "submarine mail."

USS New Mexico on Thames River - Photo courtesy US Navy

Cmdr. George Perez, USS New Mexico's commanding officer, added that the cachets were carried under the sea as another way to celebrate the state's recent centennial Jan. 6, 2012.

"Taking these first-day covers to sea was an innovative idea, which allowed the crew to contribute to New Mexico's centennial celebration," said Perez. "In fact, each of these first-day covers has been 'certified to test depth' on board USS New Mexico and they will truly be unique collector's items for the people that support this boat and crew so well."

In order to get the cachets sent to the USS New Mexico, the New Mexico Committee worked with the Santa Fe main post office to affix 1,000 stamps to envelopes and shipped them to the submarine prior to their underway.

"These submarine covers are souvenirs and do not actually get mailed. We see this project as another way to involve USS New Mexico in our state's centennial celebrations," said Dick Brown, chairman, USS New Mexico Committee, who added that it was the first time the Santa Fe post office assisted with mail carried under the sea.

Brown added that the commanding officer of USS New Mexico signed each envelope certifying that it was carried beneath the sea, thus becoming "submarine mail."

Brown, a collector of submarine stamps, has over 400 stamps in his prized collection and thought of the idea for USS New Mexico to carry the special centennial covers.

"While 43 nations are operating submarines today, more than twice that number has issued submarine stamps honoring naval submarines, deep-sea research vessels and Jules Verne's fictional submarine Nautilus. To me, they are all very special," said Brown.

Brown has an impressive submarine stamp collection, many dating as far back as seven decades.

"As a submarine stamp collector, I was also inspired by the world's first 'submarine mail,' carried aboard the Spanish submarine C4 in August 1938 during the Spanish Civil War," said Brown.

Brown added that the submarine C4 patrolled the area between the republican cities of Barcelona and Cartagena, and it carried mail between the Spanish mainland and the Island of Minorca.

"That 'submarine mail' actually included submarine stamps which today are extremely rare, and I am most fortunate to have them in my submarine stamp collection," said Brown.

In addition to carrying submarine stamps, the entire crew helped their namesake state celebrate its centennial by sending a video message greeting prior to the state's centennial in early January.

USS New Mexico is named in recognition of the people of the "Land of Enchantment," and is the sixth ship of the Virginia class.

Service Chiefs Deepen Ties During Fellowship 2012 Exercise


January 30, 2012

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Lawlor,

Chief of Naval Operations Public Affairs

ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Chief of naval operations (CNO) and first sea lord and royal navy chief of naval staff went underway together Jan. 26-27, to watch their respective navies' newest fast-attack submarines try to out-flank, out-maneuver and out-wit each other during the Fellowship 2012 exercise.

CNO Adm. Jonathan Greenert and Adm. Sir Mark Stanhope hit the deckplates on board the first-in-class HMS Astute (SSN-20) followed by the Virginia-class USS New Mexico (SSN-779) to tour the spaces and meet with each boat's officers and crew.

As submariners themselves, both top naval officers took a keen interest in meeting fellow submariners and seeing how the silent service has evolved. They saw the technological advances of today's submarine fleet compared to the boats under their command years ago.

This historic first undersea meeting of the leaders of the world's most powerful navies provided a unique opportunity for Greenert and Stanhope to see the future of undersea superiority in real time.

"The Fellowship exercise is our opportunity to take some of our best warships, the Astute-class and our Virginia-class submarines, and in an open setting and in a free-play exercise; test them out, test our tactics, our techniques and our procedures," said Greenert.

Several cat-and-mouse war game scenarios were played out during the exercise allowing New Mexico and Astute submariner's skills to come to fruition as both crews swapped from hunter to hunted enabling them to test the full capabilities of their boat.

Greenert said that he could think of no greater adversary to spar with to truly test each platform.

"With the Royal Navy getting together with the U.S. Navy you have the best out there operating together with cutting edge technology and cutting edge tactics, and that's important for each of us to see what we have and see what we're made of, and I would never miss this opportunity, not while I'm CNO," Greenert said.

Stanhope concurred with Greenert and pointed out that each nation's naval service chief deemed the exercise important enough for them to physically be in attendance, emphasizing the support each had for their submarine programs and in each other as allies.

"I think what's important here is to recognize the importance of what we're achieving," Stanhope said. "Here we are on the AUTEC (Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center) range with the best that the United Kingdom can deliver to the future in submarining terms and the best that the U.S. can deliver to the future in submarining terms, both recognizing we need to continue to advance to keep up with the challenges the future will undoubtedly bring to us. By doing so we undoubtedly demonstrate the huge and deeply significant links that we have."

Stanhope said the strategic partnership between the U.S. and the United Kingdom is more than a simple alliance. He said the sharing of training resources and responsibilities in the form of each nation's newest fleet submarines shows a deep sense of confidence and trust.

Astute's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Sir Iain Breckenridge, said that he was honored to host both service chiefs during the Fellowship exercise and equally proud to showcase the performance of his boat and crew.

Breckenridge continued that the principle reason for running the exercise is because Astute is a brand new class of boat and she still needs to be operationally tested and proven.

"The HMS Astute is still very much in trials," Breckenridge said. "To have the chance to go up against what is a very capable and very proven submarine, the Virginia-class, USS New Mexico has been really good fun.

"The great thing about the fellowship exercise is the CNO and my First Sea Lord are going to the New Mexico to pretty much watch the same sort of runs in close proximity action that they saw my team operate here," Breckenridge said. "That's one of the key things about Fellowship is that the heads of service get a view of what they've seen in one boat, they then go see in the next boat and can make a direct comparison."

New Mexico Tests Its Capabilities During Fellowship 2012

Navy News

January 31, 2012

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Lawlor

ATLANTIC OCEAN — The crew of the Virginia-class USS New Mexico (SSN 779) joined the Royal Navy’s newest Astute-class, fast-attack submarine HMS Astute (SSN-20) for the Fellowship 2012 exercise where the boats tried to out-flank, out-maneuver and out-wit each other.

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert and First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff of the Royal Navy Adm. Sir Mark Stanhope, both with careers that originated in the submarine community, were welcomed by their submariner brethren who reveled at the opportunity to impress the service chiefs with their operational capabilities and four-star hospitality, all while engaging the Royal Navy’s newest Astute-class, fast-attack submarine HMS Astute (SSN-20) as part of the Fellowship 2012 exercise.

New Mexico’s Commanding Officer Cmdr. George Perez said he and his crew were honored to host the two highest distinguished naval officers and submariners in the U.S. and British fleets. Perez also said from a training standpoint, he appreciated the chance to tactically compete with such an accomplished and advanced Astute boat and crew.

“This is a great opportunity for the crew, for the Virginia-class program, the U.S. Navy, and submarine force to have this opportunity to take this boat out against what we in the submarine community consider is the best competition out there,” Perez said. “The crew has enjoyed every minute of it.”

Perez said he hopes to do more exercises like Fellowship in the future because the value added by performing real time tracking, deterrence and attack scenarios cannot be replicated to the same level of authenticity by other forms of training.

Ensign Steven Connell was the junior officer of the watch for section one aboard New Mexico during the exercise. Connell said the exercise provided him and his shipmates with a better appreciation of what they and their boat can do.

“It let us see our capabilities versus their capabilities and it’s a very close match between the two countries,” Connell said.

Sonar Technician (Submarine) 3rd Class Michael Deline, assigned to New Mexico’s sonar division, said his division was responsible for finding, mapping and tracking the Astute. Deline said he was extremely satisfied with the performance of New Mexico in her first international operation.

“The Navy puts in so much research and development into its submarines,” Deline said. “And with this submarine, most of us from my division have been here since the beginning, so we’ve watched the progress of a Virginia-class submarine from the ground up.”

“Having the First Sea Lord and CNO onboard you could feel the energy on this boat,” Connell said. “Everyone was real excited about this exercise, morale was high, and it was just overall a really good thing for both countries.”

Connell said he was not surprised that the CNO and First Sea Lord attended the exercise. “What better time to visit?” Connell said. “These are two of the greatest warships in the world right now and we’re both going head to head. What better time and place than right now to tour these boats and see them first hand?”

Both Greenert and Stanhope said their presence aboard New Mexico and Astute during the exercise was a unilateral showing of support and trust between the two long-standing allies as well as a poignant emphasis on the importance of the continued development of the submarine program.

USS New Mexico SSN-779 Committee
For Immediate Release: January 10, 2012
Contact: Dick Brown 505-238-1584

Statehood Centennial Submarine Mail First Day Covers

The USS New Mexico Committee designed and produced a special cachet cover and pictoral postmark for New Mexico's 100th birthday. The design, by committee member Angie McKinstry, features a photo of the submarine underway and the commemorative postage stamp issued by the US Postal Service (USPS) on January 6, 2012 marking the state’s Centennial. It also features an insert with information about the Navy’s 6th Virginia-class submarine and a special USPS-approved cancellation postmark designed by Angie.

While a thousand cachet envelopes and inserts were printed, they do not actually get mailed; they are souvenirs or collectibles.

This project has been made possible by USPS District Retail Manager Brian McCoy of Phoenix and Postmaster Yasmin Montano of Santa Fe. Brian worked right along side committee members Jeff Albright, Rick Carver, Leo and Edris Davis, and Dick Brown. In appreciation for their support, they gave Brian and Yasmin USS New Mexico admiral ball-caps. The work party spent several hours at the Santa Fe main post office affixing Centennial stamps to the envelopes and canceling them with the “USS New Mexico Station” postmark. But that is only the first stage of this special submarine mail project.

The second stage takes place aboard the boat where the Commanding Officer, CDR George Perez, signs each cover, thereby certifying that each has been carried beneath the sea aboard NEW MEXICO.

On Statehood Day (January 6th) the special commemorative covers were overnighted to the Chief of the Boat, ETCS Eric Murphy so that they can go to sea and become "submarine mail". The committee is very happy to have pulled this time-critical process off just in time for the boat's next underway.

The plan is for the crew to keep 150 covers as souvenirs of the New Mexico Centennial and for the rest to be shipped back to the committee. Then one will be given to each member of the New Mexico State Legislature and the Governor's office, and the rest will be sold with all proceeds going towards support of the officers and crew of NEW MEXICO. USPS thinks these submarine covers will be highly sought after by collectors.

This "submarine mail" project is yet another way to involve USS NEW MEXICO in the state's centennial celebrations while also raising awareness among New Mexicans of our state namesake submarine.

Photos courtesy of Rick Carver.

CDR Jeff Albright, USN(Ret) lining up the rubber stamp for a perfect cancellation mark

Leo Davis, WWII submarine veteran, affixes centennial stamps to each cover.

Dick Brown, Cold War submarine veteran, placing stamp on envelope.

Submarine mail work party, left to right, Edris Davis, Dick Brown, Jeff Albright and Leo Davis.

USS NEW MEXICO Update from CDR George Perez

January 7, 2012


NEW MEXICO Friends, Families and Supporters,

It has been a little over four months since my last update on the status of NEW MEXICO and her crew. Since that update, NEW MEXICO conducted extensive operations at sea in the final months of 2011. During all of it, NEW MEXICO and her crew performed superbly. Our extended underway started with an assessment by Submarine Squadron FOUR of the crew's basic submarine skills. With only ten days of underway time under our belts at that time, NEW MEXICO successfully passed this initial milestone before heading south for extensive testing and evaluation. The first phase of this period centered around the evaluation and modification of NEW MEXICO's magnetic signature. Several days of inport testing at Naval Submarine Base, Kings Bay, GA, coupled with several days of operations off the coast of Florida, certified the ship's magnetic signature for operations at sea. During the course of these operations, the ship found itself operating in both shallow water and in a high contact density environment. Both of these elements are extremely challenging for even the most proficient and experienced submariners. Needless to say, the crew rose to the challenge and performed admirably!

The second phase of our operations took us to Port Canaveral, FL where we spent a little over a week grooming all of our tactical systems in preparation for at-sea testing conducting what the Submarine Force calls Weapons Systems Accuracy Trials (WSAT) - essentially a final evaluation and certification of NEW MEXICO's tactical systems. Again, the crew impressed everyone involved, working faster and more efficiently than any crew undergoing similar operations in recent history. While in Port Canaveral, we were fortunate to host two incredibly rewarding VIP cruises. The first involved embarking several veterans of the first NEW MEXICO, BB-40 as well as several members of the New Mexico Committee. We were hoping to also embark Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico, but unfortunately her schedule precluded her participation. The second VIP cruise embarked key Congressional Staff members and RDML Richard P. Breckenridge, Commander, Submarine Group TWO. Of note, this was the Admiral's first submarine ride following his recent change of command and it was fitting that NEW MEXICO had the opportunity to host the event. The at-sea portion of WSAT was successfully conducted at the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) in the vicinity of Andros Island, Bahamas. This phase culminated in our successful exercise firings against our sister ship USS CALIFORNIA and allowed NEW MEXICO to transition from Basic Submarine Training to Ready for Tasking status.

Following our WSAT operations, a brief return to Kings Bay, GA allowed NEW MEXICO to prepare for the third and final portion of our operations - Submarine Command Course 30. Loading 20 exercise weapons and seven Prospective Commanding and Executive Officers, NEW MEXICO conducted three weeks of intensive operations including simulated combat operations against a myriad of U.S. Navy surface warships as well as head-to-head exercise firings against the submarines USS SCRANTON and USS ALEXANDRIA. The crew received outstanding training and experience during these operations and the event provided us an excellent opportunity to observe firsthand just how capable NEW MEXICO truly is in combat-like conditions.

NEW MEXICO returned to Groton, CT just in time to enjoy Thanksgiving with friends and families, completing 90 days of operations away from homeport. As exciting and challenging as the time away from homeport was for the ship, it was no less challenging for the families who remained behind, many experiencing for the first time extended separation from their sailors. In addition to the separation, Hurricane Irene's landfall in CT in late August and a record snowfall in October both caused severe, week-long power outages which made life extremely difficult for those at home. Needless to say, NEW MEXICO's families inspired us all by pulling together and successfully enduring these trying events in our absence.

NEW MEXICO finished off a very successful year with the completion of a Material Inspection by the Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) in mid-December. I'm happy to report that NEW MEXICO received superb marks in all 21 evaluated areas. Following the inspection, the crew was able to take some much needed time off over the holiday season but still found time to decorate the ship with 1800 red and green chili Christmas lights and to send a video-taped celebration message to our namesake state for the 100th Centennial. Now, we are preparing for an extremely busy 2012. In the next 90 days, NEW MEXICO will undergo three major inspections, an extensive maintenance availability period, and additional testing and evaluations. I have every confidence the ship and the crew will continue to make you all incredibly proud.

Finally, I would like to take a moment to personally thank Mrs. Laura Amick for her dedication and sacrifice over the last 15 months as NEW MEXICO's OMBUDSMAN. Her efforts in assisting NEW MEXICO's families were instrumental in the successes enjoyed by the ship and crew and could not have been achieved without her. You have earned a much need rest as our new OMBUDSMAN, Mrs. Marlaina Malone, is now carrying the torch. Thank you Laura.

Warmest Regards,

CDR George Perez
Commanding Officer

USS New Mexico SSN-779 Committee
For Immediate Release: January 2, 2012
Contact: Dick Brown 505-238-1584

Submarine Crew Extends Happy 100th Birthday
to New Mexico

All 127 members of the crew of the Virginia-class submarine USS New Mexico (SSN 779) extended their birthday wishes on video, December 27th, to the state of New Mexico. It was the crew’s way of congratulating New Mexico on 100 years of statehood.

The submarine’s Commanding Officer, CDR George Perez, based at New London, Connecticut and the Navy League’s New Mexico Committee based in Albuquerque, New Mexico came up with the idea for the video greeting as a way to recognize the strong ties between our undersea warriors and the citizens of New Mexico.

While the submarine is not able to journey up the Rio Grande for port calls in Las Cruces, Albuquerque or Espanola to celebrate New Mexico’s 100th birthday, the 12-second video greeting is timed to help kick off the state’s Centennial which officially begins on January 6, 2012.

The USS New Mexico Committee is the home support team for the officers and crew of this newest of Navy nuclear-powered submarines. It has a long history of assisting the crew. Committee Chairman Dick Brown, a Cold War submarine veteran, says “We have helped the crew instill a New Mexico theme throughout their onboard living quarters by supplying Southwest-style bunk and passageway curtains, large panoramic photographs of New Mexico landscapes and hot air balloons, and 1,800 red and green chile pepper holiday lights.” Such enhancements to the submarine’s interior décor help honor the state’s proud culture, heritage and history.

The short video message was created by LCDR Jennifer Cragg, Public Affairs Officer, Commander Submarine Group Two, Naval Submarine Base New London, CT.

For more information about USS New Mexico, go to www.ussnewmexico.net and for more information about the Navy League’s New Mexico Council, go to www.nmnavyleague.com.

USS New Mexico Commissioning Committee is Akin to an Extended Family

By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, Commander, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs

and Ensign Justin Will, USS New Mexico

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- The relationship between the Navy League's New Mexico Commissioning Committee and the crew of USS New Mexico (SSN 779) during its 33-year lifespan will mirror that of an extended family.

Coincidentally, every year from Nov. 1-30, we reflect on the sacrifices and services of our families during National Military Family Appreciation Month. The Navy League's New Mexico Commissioning Committee, like a family, has been a consistent supporter of the sixth Virginia-class submarine since long before the submarine was commissioned in 2010.

The committee has a long history of assisting the crew in a variety of ways to show their support for their state's namesake submarine. Prior to her commissioning, the committee created a New Mexico theme in the décor of the submarine's living quarters, including Southwest-style bunk and passageway curtains.

Capt. Robert Dain, a native of New Mexico, became the first officer in charge of his state's namesake submarine during the boat's pre-commissioning status in 2006-2008.

"It was a great honor to form the initial bond and bring the cultural of the state to the submarine New Mexico," said Dain, who is presently assigned to Commander, Submarine Group Two. Dain was born in Shiprock, N.M., and raised in Tijeras and Cedar Crest, N.M., east of Albuquerque.

Dick Brown, chairman, USS New Mexico Commissioning Committee, said there is a unique relationship the boat shares with the committee. The Commissioning Committee is in their 11th year of support for USS New Mexico, even though the boat was commissioned last year.

"While construction of 'our' sub did not start until March 2004, our pursuit of the name New Mexico started in January 2000," said Brown. "While New Mexico doesn't reside near an ocean, we are very much a Navy state with three submarines honoring our state."

The committee offers support to the crew of USS New Mexico in a variety of ways. Among their support activities are Sailor of the Quarter and Sailor of the Year plaques for the crew, hosting crew member visits to the state, sponsoring crew picnics, and even supplying red Chile Christmas lights to make sure the boat is noticed on the waterfront during the Holiday Season. Most recently, the Committee supplied new tabletops in the design of the New Mexico state flag for five tables in the crew's mess.

So unique is their bond that the committee has organized training for the culinary specialists assigned to the boat to learn the art of creating fine New Mexico cuisine for the crew.

Brown added that the crew had previously named their dining facility affectionately after a popular restaurant in Mesilla, New Mexico. The crew refers to their dining facility as "La Posta Abajo del Mar" which when translated means "La Posta beneath the Sea".

For the past three years, New Mexico Sailors have also attended the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and pictures similar to their flight experiences were also added to the crew's mess décor.

In return, the officers and crew of New Mexico have invited committee members and supporters on two VIP cruises out of Port Canaveral, Fla.

The second VIP cruise, this past September, included many Navy veterans as well as the designer of the ship's crest, Emilee Sena, a college student who is now pursuing a scientific PhD after her experiences with the high-tech submarine and its highly trained crew.

In October, three Sailors assigned to USS New Mexico participated in Albuquerque Navy Week. Navy Weeks provide opportunities for the local residents to meet some of the Navy's Sailors and learn about the Navy's critical missions and its broad ranging capabilities.

During their visit, the Sailors met with New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez; conducted a question and answering session with Sea Cadets at Bataan Military Academy; served dinner at a homeless shelter; attended a Navy birthday ball and participated in other community relations events planned by the New Mexico Commissioning Committee.

New Mexico is named in recognition of the people of the "Land of Enchantment." The battleship New Mexico (BB40), in commission from 1918 to 1946 and the only other ship named after the 47th state, earned six battle stars for World War II service, which included providing shore bombardment support for landings in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, Guam, Tinian, Saipan, the Philippines, and Okinawa. BB40 acted as the flagship for the Pacific Fleet during the 1920s. She was present at the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay.

"The Sailors who served aboard New Mexico (BB 40) are truly deserving of the recognition this exhibition provides," said Cmdr. George Perez, commanding officer of New Mexico since October 2010. "Their legacy will continue to serve both the state and the Nation onboard New Mexico for decades to come," said Perez.

The state of New Mexico will celebrate its statehood centennial Jan. 6 2012. Like any other extended family, the crew of USS New Mexico is sure to share their well wishes for another successful 100 years and beyond.

For more news from Commander Submarine Group 2, visit www.navy.mil/local/Subgru2/.

NEW MEXICO Crew Participates in 2011 Navy Week

By NLUS (Navy League of the United States)

Photos courtesy of MC1 Pat Migliaccio and MC1 Mark O'Donald, US Navy, except as noted

Three members of the USS NEW MEXICO crew visited Albuquerque for a week (10/2-10/9) as the community celebrated Albuquerque's 3rd Navy Week and 40th Balloon Fiesta. Our visiting sailors included MMCM(SS) Joaquin Arroyo and MM1(SS) Attila Halacsy of the boat's engineering department and CS2(SS) Geoffrey Obermaier of the crew's mess.

Navy Week showcases the investment Americans have made in their Navy as a global force and increases awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence. Albuquerque Navy Week featured local reservists, senior Navy officials, Destroyers Navy Band, mobile flight simulator and Navy SEAL Leap Frogs Team. The Navy's senior active duty representative from the Pentagon for Albuquerque Navy Week was RADM Mike Broadway, Special Assistant to the Deputy CNO, OPNAV N2N6, for Information Dominance. Also participating in Navy Week was Senior Executive Service representative Carla Lucchino, Assistant for Administration to SECNAV, the highest ranking civilian in the Navy. Throughout Navy week, there was good coverage by the Navy news media.

Our NEW MEXICO sailors attended a balloon glow and fireworks show at Balloon Fiesta Park on their first evening in town.

At Joy Junction, a home for homeless families, our sailors helped serve dinner to nearly 300 residents, participated in a NOSC video tape session and conducted a Q&A session with Sea Cadets at the Bataan Military Academy.

Photo courtesy of Rick Carver

At the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum they listened to a presentation by Smithsonian Senior Curator, participated in a Chile-cookoff that was taped by KASA Fox TV, and observed Joy Junction kids web-chatting with LT Patrick Gutierrez in San Diego (HSL-49). CS2 Obermaier was a judge for the NOSC vs Recruiters cook-off.

Dick Brown and Damon Runyan, representing the USS New Mexico Committee, briefed Governor Susana Martinez on our namesake submarine and the support it provides to the crew. Joining them at the State Capitol building in Santa Fe were the three namesake sailors and two NAVCO personnel, LT Jessica Berry and MC1 Mark O'Donald (Navy photographer), plus Rick Carver (committee photographer). The group met in the Governor's private office, in an informal setting, for 40 minutes. The Governor was sincerely interested in the boat and absolutely amazed at all the great things the committee is doing for it. Master Chief Arroyo presented the Governor with a USS New Mexico Admiral hat and Damon presented her with christening and commissioning books.

Photo courtesy of Rick Carver

Photo courtesy of Rick Carver

Photo courtesy of Rick Carver

Other activities included El Pinto dinner with the committee at El Pinto Restaurant and Cantina, participation in Albuquerque Hispano Chamber's Fall Mercado, a crew appreciation party at the home of Tom and Mary McConnell, and the New Mexico Council-hosted Navy Birthday Ball.

The NEW MEXICO crew joined RADM Broadway in Kaps for Kids at UNM Children's Hospital and at Presbyterian Hospital Children's Center and in a meeting with Mayor Richard Berry where the mayor presented a Navy Week Proclamation.

During a Saturday mass ascension, MMCM Arroyo rode with Tom McConnell Jr in the Zia balloon while CS2 Obermaier rode with George Hahn. But first in the air was RADM Broadway in BG Mike Rice's Fiesta balloon.

And so ended another highly successful visit by the crew of USS NEW MEXICO.

Committee Creates New Mexico Theme Aboard Submarine

By NLUS (Navy League of the United States)

Photos courtesy of Rick Carver

For the past several years, the Navy League's USS New Mexico Committee has been working on creating a New Mexico theme in the décor of the living quarters aboard the state's namesake submarine.

The work started when the CO of PCU NEW MEXICO, CDR Rob Dain, himself a native of New Mexico, and several crew members visited with Ray Sanchez of R&R Trim in downtown Albuquerque. They selected three different Southwest fabrics to replace the standard shipyard-provided blue bunk curtains in crew's quarters, chiefs quarters and officers quarters. The fabric was tested to ensure it met milspecs; Ray procured the exact hardware the shipyard uses for track-mounting and subcontracted the manufacture of the curtains to Simply Windows in Las Cruces. They were delivered and installed in time for commissioning.

USS NEW MEXICO's second CO, CDR Mark Prokopius, accompanied by some crew members on a subsequent visit to the state, returned to R&R Trim and selected a different Southwest design for 11 passageway curtains. These were also manufactured by Simply Windows in Las Cruces, then shipped to the boat for installation by the crew.

The committee's work in instilling a New Mexico look aboard NEW MEXICO did not stop with bunk and passageway curtains. The sub's third and current CO, CDR George Perez, also embraced the New Mexico décor and asked the committee to turn its attention to the crew's mess.

A dozen or so NEW MEXICO sailors have attended the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta during the past three years and after sharing their flight experiences, the crew requested that balloon photographs be a part of the new crew's mess décor.

The crew had already dubbed its dining facility as "La Posta Abajo del Mar" (La Posta Beneath the Sea) after the popular restaurant in Mesilla, NM where the sub's culinary specialists had been trained in New Mexico cuisine. In fact, every other Tuesday is "Taco Tuesday". The crew loves to visit the owners Tom and Jerean Hutchinson whenever they are in southern New Mexico. The Hutchinsons have been great supporters of USS NEW MEXICO.

The CO directed his Supply Officer, ENS Justin Will, Chief of the Boat ETCS(SS) Eric Murphy and CSC(SS) Ron Sturtz, to work with the committee on decorating 15 double-door lockers on the port side of the crew's mess with Balloon Fiesta photographs and panoramic New Mexico landscapes. With the support of the FASTSIGNS shop in northeast Albuquerque, vinyl reproductions of colorful images from six professional photographers were selected. The adhesive panels were overlaid on the wood-grain formica doors by the crew.

The photographers, Cindy Petrehn, Ron Behrmann, Raymond Watt and Kim Vesely, graciously gave their permission to have select Balloon Fiesta images used onboard the submarine. It is not yet known if the submarine has benefited from the added buoyancy of hundreds of inflated hot air balloons but certainly the spirits of the crew have been buoyed by the undersea mass ascension. New Mexico landscape images were provided by Bryan Holliday and Andy Cook.

CDR Perez not only embraced the New Mexico theme in the crew's mess, but also the legacy of the battleship NEW MEXICO. Consequently, ENS Will and Chief Sturtz had something very special in mind for dressing up the five tables in the crew's mess. They asked the committee to come up with new tabletops in the design of the New Mexico state flag, that is, red Zia sun symbols on yellow backgrounds. Four of the five tables, 2 by 6 feet, were also to include the 10 ratings of the enlisted members of the crew and the fifth smaller table, 2 by 4 feet, was to be a special tribute to the Queen, Battleship NEW MEXICO. The locker door nearest this table exhibited a colorful US Navy photograph of the battleship at sea. With this plan, the committee again turned to FASTSIGNS for graphic design and production.

The centerpiece for the graphic design of the BB-40 tabletop is a charcoal rendering of NEW MEXICO's 14-inch guns by the late Albert John Pucci. The original work was commissioned by Automatic Switch Company when the ship was under construction. The committee worked with Pucci Estate representative Steve McErlain who secured permission to use the image in the crew's mess project. Albert Pucci's wife, Gora, was delighted to have the rendering onboard NEW MEXICO and could not think of a better tribute to her late husband and the old battleship.

With the help of the Naval History & Heritage Command and BB-40 veterans George Herder and George Smith, the committee verified the names of the BB-40 sailors killed during the two kamikaze attacks on the battleship. This BB-40 Honor Roll lists 30 men killed on New Mexico Statehood Day, January 6, 1945, during Philippines campaign and the 56 men killed on May 12, 1945 during the Okinawa Campaign. As it turns out, George Herder was on the bridge when his CO was killed during the kamikase attack. The crew did a beautiful job installing the new tabletops this past summer.

The CO has now asked the committee to turn its attention to his wardroom which is becoming a mini-museum for small BB-40 artifacts.

Dolphins Escort NEW MEXICO to Deep Water

By NLUS (Navy League of the United States)

Photos courtesy of Rick Carver

On Sunday, September 18, 2011, USS NEW MEXICO (SSN-779) hosted its second VIP cruise. Embarkees arrived at the Naval Ordnance Test Unit pier at Port Canaveral, FL just before sunrise to watch the boat come in, turn around and moor aft of USS CALIFORNIA (SSN-781). As soon as the brow was put in place, Mark & Deborah Schaefer, Pat & Kerrie Sena, Emilee Sena, Rick Carver, Julia Plotnikov, Tom & Jerean Hutchinson, Amy Pearson, Richard Simpson, Michael Richins, Greg Trapp, Richard Madison and Dick Brown boarded the boat.

NEW MEXICO was escorted to deep water by six dolphins frolicking in her bow wave. The weather was perfect and everyone but Greg had an opportunity to climb up to the bridge. The Navy thinks Greg may be the first blind person to go to sea in a nuclear submarine. The surface transit to the designated dive box lasted about three hours. The boat then dove and for the next four hours the crew demonstrated what the boat can do, putting her through various maneuvers, and at one point reaching a depth of 600 feet and at another point achieving 25-degree pitch angles.

Embarkees spent considerable time in the control room, observing the crew at their radar, sonar, weapons control, communications, navigation, photonics and ship control stations.

Tom & Jerean Hutchinson delivered a beautiful wooden La Posta sign that instantly found its place on the galley door. A great lunch featuring New Mexican cuisine was served in the wardroom. Guided tours showed most working and living spaces forward of the reactor compartment. The crew is very proud of the New Mexico theme that the committee has created in the crews mess and berthing areas. During a tour of the torpedo room, Emilee had the honor of firing a water slug (torpedo firing simulation). The XO read the Governor's Proclamation over the 1MC during our return to port.

The Captain invited Emilee to the bridge for the last hour of the underway as the boat kept its distance from three outbound cruise ships. NEW MEXICO returned to port at sundown.

Rick Carver, the trip's designated official photographer, made sure that the embarkees had an excellent photographic record of the trip. He also captured all the New Mexico decor enhancements the committee has been working on this year.

The crew was fantastic. These submariners are young professionals, very knowledgeable about their boat and their shipboard duties. It was quite apparent that the CO is very proud of his sailors.

The next day, the crew hosted a picnic near the pier, and the CO provided boat tours for George Smith, Bob Goodwin and LaVell Richins, WWII veterans who served aboard battleship NEW MEXICO. It was an awesome sight to see two Virginia-class submarines moored at Port Canaveral. And it was fascinating to watch sea turtles and manatees swimming around hull.

NEW MEXICO is scheduled to serve as a training submarine for prospective COs and XOs over the next few months. After some final operational testing and certifications early next year, the boat expects to become a surge-deployable asset for our Navy and our Nation.

USS New Mexico Sailors Participate in Albuquerque Navy Week

Photos by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Mark O’Donald

Santa Fe, N.M. (Oct. 4, 2011) Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Attila Halacsy, Master Chief Machinist’s Mate Joaquin Arroyo and Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Geoffrey Obermaier assigned to the Virginia-class submarine USS New Mexico (SSN 779) stand in the rotunda of the New Mexico State House during Albuquerque Navy Week 2011. Navy Weeks are designed to showcase the investment Americans have made in their Navy as a global force for good and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence.

Santa Fe, N.M. (Oct. 4, 2011) Governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez is presented a ships hat by Master Chief Machinist’s Mate, Joaquin Arroyo, assigned to the Virginia-class submarine USS New Mexico (SSN 779) in the Governor’s Chamber at the New Mexico State House during Albuquerque Navy Week 2011.


USS New Mexico BB40: The Drinan Diary produced by KNME - ALBUQUERQUE was nominated in the The HISTORIC/CULTURAL-NEWS SINGLE STORY category. The winner will be announced at the Rocky Mountain Emmy Award Ceremony in Phoenix on October 15, 2011. The USS NM short documentary was produced by Michael Kamins in concert with the USS New Mexico Committee at the NM History Museum.

Governor Martinez issues proclamation making September 19, 2011 "USS New Mexico Day"

Iron Fish

USS New Mexico Committee Chairman Dick Brown recently attended the 14th annual Navajo Code Talkers ceremony in Window Rock, AZ. It was Sunday, August 14th, National Navajo Code Talkers Day. The ceremony commemorated the Navajo language and the Code Talkers’ contributions to decisive WWII victories that forever changed history.

At a cook-out the evening before, with the help of Code Talker Frank Willetto of Crownpoint, NM, Dick individually presented USS NEW MEXICO challenge coins to 19 legendary Code Talkers. Frank, who served in the 2nd Marine Division, 1944-1946, blessed the boat’s pressure hull at the 2008 Keel Authentication Ceremony in Newport News, VA. Frank explained in Navajo that the souvenir was from Besh-lo NEW MEXICO. Besh-lo means “Iron Fish” and is the code word that Frank and his fellow marines used for submarines during WWII. (Photos courtesy of Rick Carver)

Frank Chee Willetto, 2nd Marine Division - WWII

Just prior to the ceremony at Navajo Veterans Park in Window Rock, Dick joined Rick Carver in a meeting with the Navajo Nation President, the Honorable Ben Shelly and First Lady Martha Shelly, in the president’s office. President Shelly is from Thoreau, NM and was sworn in as the new President of the Navajo Nation on January 11, 2011. As a token of our appreciation of the Navajo people as patriotic Americans, Dick presented President Shelly with a USS NEW MEXICO coin and Admiral ball-cap. The President signed copies of Rick’s new book “A Year or so in the Life of New Mexico”.

Code Talker Memorial at Navajo Tribal Headquarters

At the ceremony, the Code Talkers were escorted by Marine Reserves, Miss Navajo Nation sung the national anthem in Navajo, and President Shelly gave the opening address. The names of all Code Talkers - there were hundreds - were read aloud. Col. Jay Vargas, USMC (Ret), gave the keynote address. Jay, who was raised in Winslow, AZ near the western reservation, received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his gallant service during the Vietnam War. He is a USS NEW MEXICO honorary plankowner and was recognized several years ago on the New Mexico Senate Floor with Commanding Officer Rob Dain, Chief of the Boat Roger Meffley and Crest Designer Emilee Sena. His career in the Marine Corps included service as Marine Officer Instructor at UNM’s NROTC unit.

The Honorable Ben Chelly, Navajo Nation President

Jay Vargas, Medal of Honor recipient, Vietnam War

During the commemoration ceremony, eight Code Talkers who were lost in the past year were recognized, including Lloyd Oliver, one of the original 29 who were recruited into the Marine Corps at Fort Wingate in 1942. Lloyd passed away in March. CDR George Perez sent the Oliver family a flag that had flown over NEW MEXICO as a tribute to Lloyd's service to our nation.

Code Talker involvement with USS NEW MEXICO goes back to December 6, 2004 when Chester Nez of Albuquerque delivered a special blessing at the submarine’s Naming Ceremony at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. There, the Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Gordon England, made official his selection of the name NEW MEXICO. Chester, who is now in failing health, is the last of the original 29 Code Talkers.

Frank Chee Willetto, 2nd Marine Division - WWII

Keith Little (on right), 4th Marine Division – WWII, President, Navajo Code Talkers Association

USS New Mexico Update from CDR George Perez

NEW MEXICO Friends, Families and Supporters

It has been four months since my last update. Much has transpired on board, all of it for the better. First, allow me to bring you up to speed on where the ship is in her schedule. NEW MEXICO completed sea trials and delivery in mid-July following an extremely demanding, one-year Post Shipyard Availability (PSA). During this availability, the crew, in close cooperation with Electric Boat shipyard, did more work in less time than any previous Virginia Class PSA to date. In fact, the ship was delivered just two weeks off its 1 July target date. This was a huge accomplishment for both the crew and Electric Boat and was a tribute to the hard work and sacrifice by all involved to achieve such a significant milestone for the Virginia Class Program. Following sea trials, we had the opportunity for a week of training at sea where we took the ship through her paces while we acclimated ourselves to operations at sea, something we had not done in over a year. Following our return to homeport in early August, NEW MEXICO loaded her first warshot torpedos in the history of the ship. Now, we are finishing our final outfitting and minor repairs to support extended operations away from homeport.

The months ahead will see NEW MEXICO conducting a variety of testing at sea as we certify all aspects of the ship's capabilities. As such, we will be spending much of our time away from homeport. During this period, we anticipate embarking veterans of the USS NEW MEXICO (BB 40), members of the New Mexico Committee, and the Governor of the State of New Mexico for a one-day VIP cruise. We will also be completing a period of Basic Submaring Training, or BST, where we exercise our skills in all the fundamental mission areas a submarine and her crew are expected to perform.

On the personnel front, I am proud to congratulate four of the Navy's newest future Chief Petty Officers. Chief Select Christopher Matter, Chief Select Joseph Winn, Chief Select David Medert, and Chief Select Curtis Kammerer who all achieved a major career milestone with their selection. I can assure you they will make signficant contributions to the future of the Navy and the Submarine Force while serving in their first Chiefs Quarters. Also, I would be remiss if I didn't recognize an additional promotion, that of MM2(SS) Nicklaus Mitchell, who was command advanced to Petty Officer Second Class for his sustained, superior performance over the last year.

We have had several new additions to the crew including: ET3 Puls, ET3 Dunnington, MM3 Vandeventer, ENS Lefler, ITS1(SS) Liebman, STS2(SS) Barber, TM1(SS) Chayim, FT1(SS) Malone, LCDR Blais, MM2 Beaver, CS2(SS) Ingalls, MMC(SS) Kuczirka, MMFA Cowden, EMC(SS) Neufeld, MMC(Sel) Matter, MM2 Brokamp, STSSN Morris and YNSR Ledoyen. All have hit the deck plates running since joining the crew and all will be with us well through our next deployment, currently scheduled for late 2012. Sadly, we also had to bid farewell to several crewmembers since my last update including: LCDR Lundberg, ship's Engineer Officer, who transferred to Washington D.C. for duty as Commander, Naval Installation Command, Flag Secretary, MM1(SS) Huss and STS2(SS) PerezBanquez who both transferred to shore duty here in Groton, CT, TM1(SS) Burke who transferred to recruiting duty in Ohio, LS2(SS) Lyle to transferred to Mayport, FL, EMC Clark who transferred to Norfolk, VA, MM2(SS) Reichert who transferred to USS TEXAS (SSN 775) in Pearl Harbor, HI, MM1(SS) Burke who transferred to Norfolk Naval Shipyard, and LT Woods who transferred to duty on board USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65) in Norfolk, VA. Each of these fine submariners made invaluable contributions to the success of NEW MEXICO and their presence on the deckplates will be sorely missed.

This month, we also bid fair winds and following seas to MM1(SS) Toby Davis, who is retiring after 20 years of distinguished Naval service, and to TM2(SS) Gil Minas and MM3(SS) Jesse Reeves who are both separating from Naval service after superb tours of duty on board NEW MEXICO. All three of these fine warriors will be missed and there is no doubt we are a better ship with them than without.

As always, it is an honor and privilege for me to lead these superb submarine warriors. They continue to amaze me with their tireless dedication and sacrifice each and every day.

Warmest Regards,

CDR George Perez Commanding Officer USS NEW MEXICO (SSN 779)

KOB Interview with USS New Mexico Committee Chairman Dick Brown

Thanks to KOB-TV, the Navy League and its USS New Mexico Committee received some very nice exposure on its support of our namesake submarine. Christina Westbrook, Executive Producer for KOB's "Good Day New Mexico" program, invited committee chairman Dick Brown to record a show segment in their studio at Broadcast Plaza. Armed with two posters and ten photos, Dick was interviewed by show host Terrie Q. Sayre on August 17th. The segment aired a week later and is available for viewing below.

Breaking News: From Centennial License Plates to Balloon Photos, Submarine NEW MEXICO is a Great Ambassador for Her Namesake

Having just completed sea trials, USS NEW MEXICO proudly displays its namesake state’s Centennial license plate at the aft end of its sail. These photos were taken July 14, 2011 at Submarine Base New London, NEW MEXICO’s homeport. The license plate was custom-made with the submarine’s hull designation SSN-779.

Chief of the Boat Eric Murphy ETCS(SS) reports that they have just selected their sailors for third quarter awards. The USS New Mexico Committee will be honoring the following crew members with special plaques:

Bluejacket of the Quarter: ETSN(SU) Christopher Juillerat

Junior Sailor of the Quarter: ET2)SS) Zachary Walden

Sailor of the Quarter: ET1(SS) Zachary Scott

For the past year, USS NEW MEXICO has been undergoing modernization and refit that is standard procedure after commissioning and shakedown. The sea trials that follow Post-Shakedown Availability (PSA) were a huge success. This means NEW MEXICO’s shipyard days are over and now she can concentrate on preparing for her first 6-month deployment.

A dozen or so NEW MEXICO sailors have attended the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta during the past few years and carried back to the rest of the crew glowing reports of balloon rides during mass ascensions. It was inevitable – the crew requested balloon pictures for their crew’s mess. Along the port side of the crew’s mess an "undersea mass ascension" springs to life.

The line-up of six ballooning images by official Balloon Fiesta photographers were reproduced on vinyl and mounted to locker doors as part of an effort by the Navy League’s USS New Mexico Committee, the home-state support team, to instill a New Mexico theme in the décor of the crew's onboard living quarters. It is not yet known if the submarine has benefited from the added buoyancy of hundreds of inflated balloons but certainly the spirits of the crew have been buoyed by this undersea mass ascension.

There are also pictures of the Sandia Peak tram and White Sands National Monument. NEW MEXICO also has Southwest-style bunk and passageway curtains. And about to be installed in the crew’s mess are panoramic photos of other New Mexico landscapes and five tabletops in the design of the state flag. No other submarine or ship in the Navy has such a colorful interior. Incidentally, the crew’s mess has been dubbed "La Posta Abajo del Mar" (La Posta Beneath the Sea) after the popular restaurant La Posta de Mesilla, near Las Cruces, NM.

What’s next? Stay tuned as the Commanding Officer, CDR George Perez, is getting ready to schedule a very special VIP cruise for surviving WWII veterans of battleship NEW MEXICO (BB-40) later this summer.

Frank Willetto – Honorary USS NEW MEXICO Plank Owner

On April 19th, 2011, at the Fire Rock Navajo Casino in Church Rock, NM (two miles east of Gallup on Historic Route 66), there was a special presentation to Navajo Code Talker and Tribal spiritual leader Frank Chee Willetto of Crownpoint. Three years ago, Frank had traveled to Newport News, Virginia where he honored the crew and 300 invited guests with his blessing of the USS NEW MEXICO submarine. At the keel authentication ceremony on April 12th, 2008, Frank bestowed his hope for safe journeys for all who go to sea in the submarine.

There were about 24 Navajo in attendance at Fire Rock Casino, including the casino CEO and Rhonda Ray, Marketing Manager, and Keith Little, President of the Navajo Code Talkers Association, plus staff members Yvonne Murphy and Wanda Arviso. Photographer Leigh Jimmie and reporter Jan-Mikael Patterson from the Navajo Times were present and produced a very nice story for this weekly newspaper. Rick Carver took photos for the Navy League’s USS New Mexico Committee and his next book.

At the podium just outside the casino entrance, with a beautiful custom motorcycle on display, Committee Chairman Dick Brown presented an honorary plank owner plaque to Frank. The 86-year old WWII veteran plans to donate it to the National Navajo Code Talkers Museum and Veterans Center when it is completed. Brown explained that plank ownership is a time-honored Navy tradition dating back to the days of wooden ships. Those sailors onboard during commissioning are plank owners for life and each is “entitled to one plank of the deck”. By the way, the motorcycle is being raffled off as a fundraiser for the new Code Talkers Museum planned for Tse Bonito, NM. (Photos courtesy of Rick Carver)

Committee Chairman Dick Brown introduces Code Talkers Keith Little and Frank Willetto. The custom motorcycle is the centerpiece of a Code Talker Museum fundraiser.

Brown presents an honorary USS New Mexico plank owner plaque to Frank Willetto.

As an 18-year old eager to defend his country during WWII, Frank joined the U.S. Marine Corps. It was while waiting for his physical exam in Santa Fe that Frank was pulled out of line by a Marine sergeant and selected for a special mission. At the time, he did not know he was destined to become a Code Talker. After basic training and extensive radio training, PFC Willetto shipped out to the Pacific Theatre where he served with the 2nd Marine Division in Saipan and Okinawa.

The Navajo Code Talkers took part in every assault the Marines conducted in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945, and saved countless lives by speeding the end of the war. Their mission was to use their native language to transmit vital combat information over open-air radio. The enemy never cracked the code; in fact, it was kept secret for more than two decades after the war.

Frank’s plank owner plaque includes a piece of high-strength steel from the construction of the submarine, quite appropriate because during WWII the Navajo code word for submarine was “Besh-Lo” which means “Iron Fish”. Frank sends his regards to the committee and to the officers and crew of USS NEW MEXICO.

Frank Willetto with plaque and USS New Mexico commissioning book.

Frank thanks the crew of submarine New Mexico and the Navy League for the opportunity to participate in the keel ceremony.

Navajo Code Talker Keith Little served with the US Marine Corps and fought in battles in the Marshall Islands, Saipan and Iwo Jima. Like most of the Code Talkers, he was not aware of the significance of his contribution to the war effort until much later in life. It was only then that he understood the importance of documenting their story for posterity. With the new museum, he hopes to teach the younger generations the importance of striving for excellence and of serving above and beyond the call of duty.

Keith Little, President of the Navajo Code Talkers Association.

After the ceremony, Keith, Frank and Dick signed USS NEW MEXICO posters for attendees and casino patrons. There is considerable excitement about "our" submarine in Navajoland. On behalf of the Navy League, Frank and Keith were given USS New Mexico admiral ball-caps and ship’s coins in appreciation for their service to our nation.

Rhonda Ray, Fire Rock Casino Marketing Manager, with Frank Willetto as he signs posters showing submarine New Mexico during sea trials.

After the war, Frank returned to his native New Mexico. He worked in the mining industry for a few years before settling into a long career with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. His first wife died in 1989. They had been married nearly 43 years. Today, he and his second wife, Shirley, live near Crownpoint. He has 10 children and 65 grandchildren.

For his exemplary service as a Navajo Code Talker, Frank received the Congressional Silver Medal in 2002, long after his service to our country. He has served as Vice President of the Navajo Code Talker Association, Chairman of the National Indian Council on Aging, Navajo Tribal Councilman (for 12 years), and Vice President of the Navajo Nation. He remains a strong advocate for improving the quality of life for the Navajo people and has testified on their behalf before congressional committees in Washington. His community service continues for he has two years remaining in his term as President of the Pueblo Pintado Chapter.

Frank Willetto on Navajo Code Talkers motorcycle.

The Navy League New Mexico Council expresses its appreciation to the Navajo Code Talker Association and the Fire Rock Navajo Casino for organizing and hosting this special tribute to Frank Willetto.

Postscript Story

Frank Willetto is not the only Code Talker involved in USS NEW MEXICO. On December 6, 2004, Chester Nez delivered a special blessing in Navajo during the naming ceremony at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque. At this event, Secretary of the Navy Gordon England made official his selection of the name for the sixth Virginia-class submarine.

Today, Chester Nez is the last surviving Code Talker of the “Original 29” who were recruited into the Marine Corps to develop the code. It was not long ago that there were three left of the original 29 but 89-year old Allen Dale June died in September and 87-year old Lloyd Oliver died in March – both proud patriots. This leaves Chester but at age 89 he too is in failing health. He is wheelchair-bound after diabetes led to the amputation of both legs.

When the USS New Mexico Commissioning Committee heard about Chester throwing out the first pitch at a 2004 major league baseball game, it invited him to the official naming of submarine NEW MEXICO. There he joined Governor Richardson and Senator Bingaman on stage – it was a great day for New Mexico and a great honor to have this war hero’s blessing as part of the naming ceremony.

Code Talker Thanked for Blessing Nuclear Sub

By Jan-Mikael Patterson Navajo Times CHURCH ROCK, N.M., April 22, 2011

Under clear skies and a slight breeze, about 30 people gathered Tuesday outside the main entrance of Fire Rock Navajo Casino to honor Navajo Code Talker Frank Chee Willetto of Crownpoint for his role in the building of the nuclear submarine USS New Mexico.

Dick Brown, committee chairman for the New Mexico Council of the Navy League, presented Willetto with an honorary plaque like that given to members of the crew that built the giant vessel. The plaque held a piece of metal left over from construction of the sub.

(Times photo - Leigh T. Jimmie) Dick Brown, left, from the Navy League's USS New Mexico Committee, presents Navajo Code Talker Frank Chee Willetto with an appreciation plaque at Fire Rock Navajo Casino on Tuesday in Church Rock, NM

In April 2008, Willetto traveled to the shipyard at Newport News, Va., where the Navy League had invited him to perform a blessing before construction on the $2.7 billion submarine got underway with the laying and authentication of the keel.

Willetto prayed in Navajo for the safety of the construction crew and that the craft, the sixth in a series of fast-attack submarines built by the Navy, would become operational as it goes out to sea.

"Frank was the most popular guy at the keel ceremony because the people out there had never seen a code talker before so it was exciting. He was the one everyone wanted to see," Brown said.

The USS New Mexico is 377 feet in length and 34 feet in diameter. It weighs 7,800 tons and can dive deeper than 800 feet. It's the second warship named after the Land of Enchantment. The first was an electrically propelled battleship that was built in 1915 and decommissioned in 1946.

"New Mexico is a state that recognizes their veterans," Willetto said, addressing the small audience. "I'm glad I was able to take part in the blessing. I got to meet the crew and the commander, who used to work in New Mexico.

Willetto, 85, was 16 when he was drafted into military service and chosen for training as a code talker. He is Bit'ahnii (Folded Arms Clan), born for Todich'ii'nii (Bitter Water Clan). His maternal grandfather was Taneezahnii (Tangle Clan) and his paternal grandfather was Naakaii Dine'e (Mexican People Clan).

"I want to thank the people that have given me this plaque. It is something to be remembered for," he said.

Willetto said the plaque would probably eventually go to the Navajo Code Talkers Museum and Veterans Center planned at Tse Bonito, N.M. In the meantime, he will keep it safely tucked away, he said.

"There's all kinds of plaques and pictures of my grandchildren on the wall that I don't want to move," Willetto chuckled. "I did promise that I will donate it to the museum when it's completed."

As for the blessing he bestowed on the USS New Mexico, so far it seems to be working.

"When you bless something you have to mean what you've said. This is something that was taught to me from my grandparents," Willetto said. "Mr. Brown said that since then the submarine was finished and everything is running perfectly."

USS New Mexico Update from CDR George Perez

You will all be happy to know that we successfully placed NEW MEXICO back in the water this past Thursday. The event went about as flawlessly as one can hope for in a shipyard environment. The ship and crew performed beautifully. The crew is now getting acclimated to being in the water again dealing with items they haven't done in nearly half a year ranging from taking draft readings to operating shaft seals. The diesel generator and battery were both restored over the weekend and installation of our new combat control system progresses at a superb rate. The next major milestones involves testing of the rod control system and light off of the combat control system, both scheduled for the March timeframe.

The crew is in good spirits following a challenging January that saw more delays than expected. Enthusiasm is high as we have begun working our operational schedule following Sea Trials which is still scheduled for mid-June. Since my last update, we have added some new members to our crew including YN3 Hemphill, STSSN Strait, ETSN Juillerat, MM3 Radar, EM1 Kammerer, ETCS Brownson, MMCM Arroyo, ETC Fisher, FT3 Kestranek, and ENS Schaefer.

Of course, as new sailors come, experienced ones depart. We bid farewell to ET1 Saffell who is headed to shore duty to train the next generation in New York. We also bid farewell to ET1 Young (IT Division) who has separated from Naval service in pursuit of a career in computers in the civilian world. Both will be sorely missed.

We have had another handful of promotions with new ranks listed: LT Wiesner, MM2 Mapes, LTJG Ostrin, and CS2 Obermaier (meritoriously promoted).

Two of our junior officers passed their Engineer's Exam, a significant milestone for all nuclear trained officer. Congratulations to LTJG Bove and LTJG Becknell on their accomplishment.

For the first time since taking command, NMX has had all her departments' leadership onboard. Both the Navigator, LT Joel Holwitt, and the Weapons Officer, LT Mark Barry, have been supporting other Virginia Class submarines in their operations (MISSOURI and NEW HAMPSHIRE, respectively). As the days go by, the ship and crew are coming together. I couldn't be more proud of their accomplishments.

CDR George Perez
Commanding Officer

USS New Mexico and ship’s company with NM state flag. Photo courtesy of General Dynamics Electric Boat.

Senate Memorial 25 Honors SSN-779 Crew

Great News Everyone!

This morning, the New Mexico State Senate unanimously passed Senate Memorial 25 (see attached pdf). The vote was 43-0. The Memorial was sponsored by State Senator & retired RADM Bill Payne. It not only honors the officers and crew of USS New Mexico, but the Navy League (home-state support team), the NM History Museum, the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber and La Posta de Mesilla too!

View PDF

Submarine CO and COB Visit New Mexico

For four days in late January, the Commanding Officer of USS New Mexico, CDR George Perez, and his wife Liz, and Chief of the Boat Eric Murphy, and his wife Marsha, visited Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

They participated in two radio talk shows and several public events, including the opening of the 4-month USS New Mexico (BB-40 & SSN-779) Exhibition at the NM History Museum in Santa Fe. This event included three BB-40 sailors who, despite being in their late 80s and early 90s, are hoping for a ride on SSN-779 later this year.

The CO and COB visited the UNM NROTC unit and the VA Medical Center, and then had some great interactions with New Mexico youth, including Bataan Military Academy’s Bataan Battalion, the nation's largest Sea Cadet unit, and some computer-savvy high schoolers sponsored by the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber.

There was some excellent television coverage by KOB TV4 and great articles in the Albuquerque Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican newspapers. In addition, CDR Perez fielded questions from KKOB Radio 770AM listeners on Bob Clark’s Morning Show and Jim Villanucci’s Afternoon Show. The latter was followed by a chance encounter with Congressman Steve Pearce.

After a meeting with the USS New Mexico Committee, the crew joined committee members at El Pinto Restaurant and Cantina.

CDR Perez and Senior Chief Murphy with local students at the Hispano Chamber’s Barelas Economic Opportunity Center. Photo by Manuel Casias, BEOC Director.

Chief of the Boat Eric Murphy reporting on behalf of the crew on KOB TV4. Photo by Manuel Casias, BEOC Director.

Jim Garcia, El Pinto Director of Operations, presents special-label USS New Mexico “Red Hot” salsa to CDR Perez. Photo by Damon Runyan.

Committee Chairman Dick Brown presents a USS New Mexico memento, a laser-etched 3D replica of the submarine, to George and Liz Perez. Photo by Damon Runyan.

Committee Chairman Dick Brown presents a USS New Mexico memento to Eric and Marsha Murphy. Photo by Damon Runyan.

USS New Mexico (BB-40 & SSN-779) Exhibition

The New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe is currently featuring a USS NEW MEXICO (BB-40 & SSN-779) Exhibition from January 23rd until May 9th at the Historic Plaza in Santa Fe next to the Palace of the Governors. The opening of the Exhibition included a visit from the Commanding Officer of USS New Mexico, CDR George Perez, Chief of the Boat Eric Murphy, and three USS New Mexico (BB-40) sailors.

BB-40 model, the centerpiece for a 4-month exhibition titled “A Noble Legacy: The USS New Mexico”, on display at the La Ventana Gallery and Lobby of the NM History Museum. Photo by Jim Fordice.

BB-40 model, 78 inches in length, but 624 feet in real life, was started by Cecil Whitson and recently completed by Keith Liotta, both history-minded modelers. Photo by Jim Fordice.

Close-up of the model’s painstaking detail. The USS New Mexico (BB-40 & SSN-779) exhibition runs from January 23rd to May 9th, 2011. Photo by Jim Fordice.

CWO George Smith, USN(Ret) reminiscing about his time on battleship New Mexico (1938-1940) during presentations in the museum auditorium. Photo by Jim Fordice.

CO and COB in museum hallway with wall silhouettes and images of our namesake submarine and battleship. Photo by Jim Fordice.

CO and COB with George Smith, who is 94 years old and lives in Media, PA. He is also a WWII submarine veteran, having made eight war patrols. Photo by Jim Fordice.

USS NEW MEXICO's Commanding Officer, CDR George Perez, briefs attendees of the opening of the USS New Mexico (BB-40 & SSN-779) Exhibition at the NM History Museum in Santa Fe. Photo by Rick Carver.

CDR George Perez, Commanding Officer, and ETCS(SS) Eric Murphy, Chief of the Boat, with a silhouette of USS NEW MEXICO (SSN-779), part of a 4-month exhibition at the NM History Museum, highlighting the legacy of the state's namesake battleship now carried by the state's namesake submarine. Photo by Rick Carver.

BB-40 sailors, with years served on battleship NEW MEXICO, L to R, George Smith (1938-1940) of Media, PA; LaVell Richins (1944-1946) of Wallsburg, UT; and James "Ranny" Kennedy (1941-1945) of Cedar Crest, NM, standing next to a 7-ft model of their beloved battleship. Photo by Rick Carver.

COB Murphy and CO Perez with WWII combat submariners, representing 21 war patrols. Leo Davis (7 patrols), George Smith (8 patrols), Charlie Brown (6 patrols). Photo by JoAnne Kennedy.

USS New Mexico Halfway Through PSA

USS New Mexico has been in Drydock #2 at General Dynamics Electric Boat’s shipyard in Groton, CT since last summer. She is midway through her one-year Post-Shakedown Availability (PSA) period.

Sea trials are scheduled to begin June 17th, followed by final delivery and a full summer of testing and training. Operations at sea will include weapons testing and magnetic signature testing in the July-August timeframe. CDR Perez reports that with her new combat control system and special operations support capability, USS New Mexico is the prime choice for Combat Commanders.

Photo courtesy of General Dynamics Electric Boat

USS New Mexico and approximately 85 crew members, ankle-deep in snow


USS New Mexico SSN-779 Committee
For Immediate Release: January 18, 2011
Contact: Dick Brown 505-238-1584

Albuquerque, NM - USS NEW MEXICO (SSN-779) Crew will visit Albuquerque January 20 through January 23. CDR George Perez, the new Commanding Officer of the USS New Mexico and his wife Liz Perez will be accompanied by ETCS Eric Murphy, Chief of the Boat, and his wife Marsha Murphy for their first trip to New Mexico since taking command of the boat.

CDR Perez and ETCS Murphy will visit UNM NROTC, the Veterans Administration Hospital and the Bataan Military Academy on January 21 as well as attend other event.

January 23 CDR Perez and ETCS Murphy will attend the Opening of the New Mexico History Museum's USS New Mexico (SSN-779) and USS New Mexico (BB-40) Exhibition. The Exhibition at the Santa Fe New Mexico History Museum will run for the next four months.


Commanding Officer
CDR George Perez

Commander George Perez, a native of Corpus Christi, Texas, enlisted in the U. S. Navy in 1986. Upon completion of training as a Nuclear Electrician's Mate, he was selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program (Nuclear Option). Attending the University of Texas, Commander Perez earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in August, 1991.

Commander Perez's first sea assignment was onboard USS HELENA (SSN 725) in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, from August 1993 to November 1996, where he served in a variety of division officer billets including Damage Control Assistant and Quality Assurance Officer. While onboard, he completed two deployments to both the Western Pacific and the Arabian Gulf.

His follow-on assignment was as Naval Science Instructor at the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC), University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida where he served from December 1996 to December 1999. During this tour he earned his Master's Degree in Business Administration from the University of Florida.

In May 2000, Commander Perez reported as the Combat Systems Officer onboard USS MONTPELIER (SSN 765) in Norfolk, Virginia. During his time onboard, he completed two deployments, including operations off South America during UNITAS 2000 and in the Mediterranean and Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. In July 2003, Commander Perez reported for duty as a Combat Evaluator for the Tactical Readiness Evaluation Team for the Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. In October 2005, Commander Perez reported as Executive Officer onboard USS RHODE ISLAND (SSBN 740)(BLUE) homeported in Kings Bay, Georgia, where he served for two years completing three strategic deterrent patrols and earning two Battle 'E' Awards.

In December 2007, Commander Perez took command of the Provincial Reconstruction Team, Nuristan Province, in eastern Afghanistan where he served with both the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Following this combat tour; Commander Perez served as the Current Operations Officer, Navy Region Southeast, in Jacksonville, FL from February 2009 to March 2010 before entering the Submarine Command pipeline.

Commander Perez is entitled to wear the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal (two awards), Navy Commendation Medal (five awards), Navy Achievement Medal (two awards) and various unit and service awards. Commander Perez is married to the former Ms. Elizabeth Masterton of Brooklyn, NY and has two children, Matthew Austin and Sydnie Marie.


Chief of the Boat
ETCS (SS) Eric Murphy
The Chief of the Boat (COB) is ETCS (SS) Eric Murphy. Senior Chief Murphy was raised in Philadelphia, PA and enlisted in the Navy on April 1st, 1992. He completed Recruit Training and Interior Communications "A" School in San Diego, CA.

His duty assignments include services aboard USS Providence (SSN-719), Performance Monitoring Team New London, USS Pittsburgh (SSN-720), Commander Submarine Squadron Fifteen Performance Monitoring Team Guam, and USS North Carolina (SSN 777).

Senior Chief Murphy first qualified in submarines in 1993 aboard the USS Providence (SSN-719). During that tour, he completed two deployments to the North Atlantic and one Mediterranean deployment and was advanced to Interior Communications Electrician 2nd Class. While serving at Performance Monitoring Team New London, he earned NAVSEA certification as an inspector of Hatches, Steering and Diving Systems and Oxygen Generators. Aboard USS Pittsburgh (SSN-720) he served as the Navigation Electronics Division Leading Petty Officer, Qualified Quartermaster of the Watch, completed two deployments to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and was advanced to Chief Petty Officer. While assigned to the staff of Commander Submarine Squadron Fifteen, he assisted in establishing the first forward deployed Performance Monitoring Team in Guam. He reported to USS North Carolina (SSN-777) commissioning crew as the 3M Coordinator, qualified and served as Assistant Navigator as well as the Navigation and Operations Department Enlisted Advisor, and was advanced to Senior Chief Petty Officer. He reported aboard USS New Mexico in July of 2009, where he now serves as Chief of the Boat.

His personal awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (two awards), the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (six awards) and various unit and campaign awards.

# # # #

USS New Mexico (SSN-779) Arrives in Groton, CT

CDR George Perez & ETCS (SS) Eric Murphy meet with the
USS New Mexico (SSN-779) Committee

CDR George Perez, wife Liz Perez and ETR2 (SS) Dick Brown, USN(Vet)

ETCS (SS) Eric Murphy, wife Marsha Murphy and ETR2 (SS) Dick Brown, USN(Vet)


By Dick Brown, Chairman USS New Mexico Committee

The new USS New Mexico CO is CDR George Perez (of Corpus Christi, TX, site of last year's Navy League National Convention) and he's very excited about his new command and to continuing the strong state-submarine relationship that we have going. He and the COB, plus wives, plan to be here in January for the grand opening of the USS New Mexico Exhibition and a meeting with our committee. The boat goes back in the water mid-December but will be pierside till June, but after that, the skipper wants to take us to sea for a day. Our boat will spend the second half of 2011 getting certified for deployment in 2012. With our shortage of subs, deployments are now 7 & 8 months long instead of 6.

Change of Command Ceremony
CDR George Perez (right) relieves CDR Mark Prokopius (left)
SUBRON4 Commodore Capt Michael Bernacchi (middle)

George has a house in Groton but Liz and the kids (Matt & Sydnie) still live in Jacksonville where I'm headed later this coming week. ADM and Cindy G introduced us to George who has recently returned from Afghanistan. In his remarks, George stated it will be a refreshing change being in a place where no one is trying to shoot him. He addressed his crew, acknowledging the many challenges they have met in the past, but cautioned that there are many more ahead. He thanked Mark for laying the foundation for the next three decades (life of the boat). David, Marlene and I had lots of chances to talk with George and get to know each other a little better. Then I joined George and his family on a 90-minute tour of USS New Hampshire (SSN-778). Also good talks with Rob Dain as well as Capt Michael Bernacchi, SUBron4 Commodore to whom George reports. Bernacchi was the Navigator on USS Albuquerque and the XO on USS Santa Fe. Speaking of reports, the Commodore is going to encourage George to send quarterly reports to us and the Gov as everyone is wanting to keep our state-sub relationship active and vibrant. We'll encourage responses from the Gov.

USS New Mexico's Three Skippers
(Left to Right) CDR Robert Lee Dain,
CDR Mark Prokopius, CDR George Perez

I'm very encouraged that we have another skipper who is very upbeat about our state (George has been to ABQ, Santa Fe & Taos a few times) as well as being highly interested in our Navy League support of the crew. He is also interested in BB-40 and encourages us to invite some BB-40 sailors to the Santa Fe exhibit in Jan. He was at New Mexico's commissioning but maintained a low profile.

Liz & George Perez

It was also good to see many of the crew members we have come to know and RDML McLaughlin CSG2 again; he served as the principal speaker. First photo courtesy of CSG2. The second two photos were taken by Wendy Lopez Poling who does a program called NavyWifeRadio. George and I were separately interviewed by Wendy. She's from Alamogordo, NM and her husband is at sea on USS Missouri (SSN-780) right now.

Also, I've accepted an invitation to attend VADM Donnelly's change-of-command and retirement ceremony in Norfolk on 11/5, pier 14, along side the USS Montpelier (SSN 765). The very next day, PCU California (SSN 781) will be christened at Newport News. George was the Weapons Officer on Montpelier and his former CO joined us on the New Hampshire tour. As Disney said, it's a small world after all.

March 2008 Update:

USS NEW MEXICO is now approximately two-thirds complete. The aft section is complete except for the shaft and propeller. The shaft tube has been hydrostatically tested. The reactor core is loaded. The forward section is coming along nicely with insertion of the torpedo room module in 2A. The control room module (CCSM) will be inserted in 2A in this month. The 2B/5 module, the last big hull section, arrives by Sea Shuttle this month. The Christening is still scheduled for January 2009 and delivery to the Navy in August 2009. Commissioning will be 3 or 4 months after that. The crew for PCU New Mexico now numbers 80 and is fast-approaching the full complement of 130. The navigator will be reporting aboard soon. Some forward crew members are training at sea aboard USS OKLAHOMA CITY (SSN-723). The crew is standing watches aft but forward crews will not stand watch until the sub is in the water (January 2009).

December 2007 Update:

NEW MEXICO 's bow and stern are looking very good and the submarine has been declared 55% complete. The sail has landed on Section 1/2A which completes the forward one-third of the hull. Pictured below is Section 2A as it appeared in November 2006 sitting on end at GDEB’s Quonset Point, RI.

Sections 8 and 9 were welded together in February 2007 and the main propulsion unit was end-loaded in Section 8/9 in August 2007. Then in October, Section 8/9 was moved astern of Section 6/7 and welded, completing the aft one-third of the hull, and beating the schedule by nearly two months.

The remaining one-third, the so-called super-module or Section 2B/5, is all that is needed to complete NEW MEXICO’s pressure hull. This long straight mid-section of the hull is scheduled to arrive by sea shuttle from GDEB in early March 2008. This leaves only two big welding jobs, the 5/6 weld and the 2A/2B weld to reach the “Pressure Hull Complete” milestone. Pictured below is Section 5 as it appeared in November 2006 at Quonset Point.

August 2007 Update:

The NEW MEXICO is now 50% complete. She is taking shape in Bay #4 in the Module Outfitting Facility at Northrop Grumman’s Newport News shipyard. Her bow faces the James River.

On July 16th, hull section 2A and the Main Propulsion Unit (or engine raft) arrived from General Dynamic’s Electric Boat Quonset Point facility in Rhode Island. Section 2A has since been welded to the 1A/B bow section.

The Main Propulsion Unit (MPU) raft was loaded in the 8/9 stern section on August 7 th. See photo of the section 8/9. This 25-ton engine raft includes turbines, main engines and gears. On the nuclear path, the initial primary coolant fill has taken place and testing is ongoing. The crew is very busy standing watches and testing systems. Special acoustic mold-in-place hull coating operations are underway for sections 6 and 7. The sail (see photo) is nearing completion.

Joining Sections 8 and 9 - this is the tapered stern section of the hull, with rudder and stern planes. It houses the aft portion of the engine room. The white tent is for temperature control and slag containment during welding. (Photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman Newport News)

New Mexico’s sail under construction. (The scaffolding in the foreground hides some details.) The forward edge of the sail is on the left. The structure is free-flooding and houses electronic masts and a multitude of sensors. (Photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman Newport News)

July 2007 Update:

The main propulsion unit (Engine Room Raft) for Section 8 has just arrived at the shipyard. The crew started standing watches in Section 7 (forward part of engine room) on 7/6. The sonar sphere is installed on front of Section 1A but there is no bow dome yet. Vertical Launch Tubes (VLTs) are installed, torpedo tubes are installed, and work on the shutter doors is underway. Section 2A just arrived from Quonset Point, RI where General Dynamics Electric Boat fabricates the straight sections of the hull. It will be joined to Section 1 and then the sail will be attached. The weapons module (torpedo room) is in the works. The crew now numbers 62 and is on track to reach 100 by January 2008.

March 2007 Update:

Modules or sections of NEW MEXICO’s hull are presently aligned in Bay #4 of the 10-story Module Outfitting Facility (MOF) at the shipyard. Once a section of NEW HAMPSHIRE was moved out of the way, Section 8, the aft portion of NEW MEXICO’s Engine Room, which arrived by Sea Shuttle from Electric Boat in January, was maneuvered into position. It is being welded to Section 9, the stern. This will complete the aft end of NEW MEXICO.

Also in Bay #4, in perfect alignment with the aft section, is NEW MEXICO’s forward section. It contains 12 vertical launch tubes in the forward ballast tank, just outside the forward-most portion of the pressure hull. The sail is under construction as well as many mid-sections of the hull. Northrop Grumman Newport News manufactures the tapered hull sections of VIRGINIA-Class submarines and General Dynamics Electric Boat manufactures the straight sections. The largest straight section is called the 2B/5 supermodule. It will arrive from Electric Boat in late February 2008. Before any hull sections are welded together, they are first packed full of equipment, systems, and machinery -- every permanent component of the submarine. This process of installing equipment modules is called end-loading.

As of early March 2007, the shipyard reports that NEW MEXICO is 41% complete and looking very much like a submarine. As major hull sections come together, we expect additional construction photos that can be posted on this web site. It takes a while for photos to be cleared for public release but more pictures of NEW MEXICO are definitely coming our way.

She costs $2.7 billion and requires 14 million manhours to assemble her one million parts and 140 shipboard systems, all encased in the strongest submarine hull ever built. She is NEW MEXICO, the Navy’s sixth Virginia-class fast-attack submarine.

The partnership between two shipbuilders, General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB) and Northrop Grumman Newport News (NGNN) is unique. These former competitors have teamed to produce the world’s most technologically advanced submarines. NEW MEXICO’s hull sections are being built in two shipyards. GDEB is building the straight sections at its facilities in Groton, CT and Quonset Point, RI and transporting them by sea shuttle to Newport News, VA. NGNN is building the tapered hull sections and doing the final assembly at its Newport News shipyard. The company has been building ships since 1891 and NEW MEXICO is its 664th ship.

USS New Mexico

At present, NEW MEXICO is nearing 40% complete. Assembly is taking place inside NGNN’s 10-story Module Outfitting Facility (MOF) with NEW MEXICO’s bow pointed towards the James River near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. In the MOF, hull sections are end-loaded with system modules which are powered up and tested before hull sections are welded together. Pictured here is the New Mexico state flag which is dwarfed by the 60-ft length of this cylindrical hull section. The forward direction is on the left side. This is section 7 which houses the forward portion of the engine room and the aft portion of the reactor compartment. NEW MEXICO’s reactor will power the submarine for its entire 33-year design service life without refueling. In this photo, section 7 is resting in Bay #3 but it will eventually be moved laterally and take its rightful position in NEW MEXICO.

Hull Section 7, Engine Room
Hull Section 7, Engine Room Photo Courtesy of Northrop Grumman Newport News

Before tapered sections of the hull reach the MOF, they are fabricated in the Ring Assembly Building. Pictured here are two forward hull sections. Section 1A (on the right) is outside the pressure hull and houses the forward ballast tanks and 12 vertical tubes for launching cruise missiles. Section 1B (on the left) will be connected to 1A and contains the forward end of the pressure hull. The area with shiny buffed steel is where the sail will be attached. NEW MEXICO’s sail is also under construction in the Ring Assembly Building. The bow dome, housing a spherical sonar array, will complete the forward end of the submarine.

Section 1A on Right, Section 1B on Left
Section 1A on Right, Section 1B on Left Photo Courtesy of Northrop Grumman Newport News

Another tapered hull section is the stern. Here section 9B is being raised vertically by the shipyard’s giant crane for transport to the MOF. Shown in this photo are the aft ballast tank flood ports, special ports from which countermeasures are launched, dihedral (fin) connection points, temporary steel pads for resting on chocks and the receptacle for the rudder pin. At this time, sections 9A and 9B are welded together as one unit and are in their normal horizontal position at the far end of Bay #4 where machining for the propulsor (ultra-quiet propeller in a special housing) is currently in progress. The upper and lower sections of NEW MEXICO’s rudder have already been installed.

Section 9B being Raised Vertically
Section 9b being Raised Vertically, Photo Courtesy of Northrop Grumman Newport News

With a length of 377 feet and a beam of 34 feet, NEW MEXICO will be slightly larger than the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarines. She will weigh 7,835 tons submerged. When on the surface, the bottom of her rudder will be 32 feet down. NEW MEXICO is scheduled for launch in April 2009 with delivery to the Navy one year later.