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Three Namesake Submarines Surface in New Mexico for Rare State Visit

New Mexico Navy League, October 13, 2014
by Richard M. Brown
Photos by Rick Carver

Left to right, CDR Todd Moore of the USS New Mexico (SSN-779), CDR Trent Hesslink of the USS Albuquerque (SSN-706) and CDR Timothy Poe of the USS Santa Fe (SSN-763) in center of New Mexico State Seal, crew members surround them, at New Mexico State Capitol Building, Santa Fe, NM, Oct 13, 2014. All three New Mexico namesake submarine commanders in New Mexico at the same time, at the same place, for the first time ever! Photo courtesy of Rick Carver. A picture for history!

New Mexico’s three namesake submarines -- the Los Angeles-class USS ALBUQUERQUE (SSN 706), the Improved Los Angeles-class USS SANTA FE (SSN 763), and the Virginia-class USS NEW MEXICO (SSN 779), with all three Commanding Officers and their wives, and a total of 20 members of the three crews, visited the land-locked state during the period October 11 – 13, 2014.

While in the planning stages for months, it was not until the commanding officers compared their operating schedules that a simultaneous visit, albeit a historic visit, looked feasible. A collaborative effort by the Navy League New Mexico Council’s SANTA FE and NEW MEXICO support committees, and assistance for ALBUQUERQUE by the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, made it all possible. The purpose was simple -– to increase public awareness of the submarines and to render a final salute to San Diego-based ALBUQUERQUE as she nears the end of her service life.

The visit included a lunch for ALBUQUERQUE’s Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Trent Hesslink, hosted by the Chamber’s CEO and the Mayor of Albuquerque. Cmdr. Hesslink hails from New Mexico’s northern neighbor, Colorado, and has had four sea tours. It just so happens that FTC(SS) Ramon Escalante of the ALBUQUERQUE was on leave in his hometown and joined some of the planned activities. Cmdr. Hesslink reported “ALBUQUERQUE to date has made 1,035 dives during her 32 years of service.” He added, “In August, we journeyed to British Columbia to test weapons with the Royal Canadian Navy which is celebrating its Submarine Centennial. We are now preparing for our final deployment, this time with the Fifth Fleet in the Middle East.”

Other events during the “three-sub” crew visit included a cultural experience at Tesuque Pueblo, school visits in both Albuquerque and Santa Fe, the Navy Birthday Ball at Sandia Pueblo’s resort near Albuquerque with the three COs as the honored guest speakers, live interviews by two Albuquerque TV stations on the launch field during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, and a chuckwagon-style BBQ at the Bonanza Creek Movie Ranch, a working cattle ranch with an Old West town southeast of Santa Fe. In addition, the undersea warriors attended a reception and luncheon at Santa Fe Community College, followed by another reception at the New Mexico History Museum, and a brief visit to the Rotunda in the State Capitol building. Santa Fe Community College just received recognition as the best veteran support, two-year college in the nation.

School visits included the University of New Mexico Naval ROTC program where LTjg Nate Pelletier, a native of Albuquerque and one of four members of the crew of NEW MEXICO, briefed midshipmen on the life of a junior officer aboard a submarine and the benefits of a career in the Navy's nuclear propulsion program.

The 12 members of the SANTA FE crew participated in various community relations projects throughout the Capital City, including visits with patients at the Santa Fe Cancer Clinic and a visit to Kitchen Angels where the crew made a generous donation to this volunteer organization dedicated to providing nutritious meals to folks facing life-challenging situations.

On the final morning of the visit, the commanding officers spent an hour answering questions from callers on KKOB Radio in Albuquerque, the most powerful station in the state. The COs described the history and importance of our undersea Navy and reiterated how special it is for New Mexico to be so prominently represented in our Submarine Force.

In describing submarine forces around the world, the Commanding Officer of SANTA FE, Cmdr. Tim Poe, reported there are about 450 submarines worldwide. The skipper is a third generation sailor and has been in command for two years. He said, “Our Navy has 73 submarines which make up about a third of our naval force and at least eight are deployed at any one time.” Cmdr. Poe’s Pearl Harbor-based boat played “target” during RIMPAC 2014, the world’s largest maritime exercise. He added that the United States has not fired a torpedo in anger since WWII.

Cmdr. Todd Moore, who has served on four boats during his naval career, assumed command of Groton-based NEW MEXICO about a year ago. He described his boat’s role in ICEX 2014, including torpedo exercises under the Arctic ice. “After ICEX, we surfaced 150 yards from the North Pole, in fact, we were the first Virginia-class to surface at the pole. On our way home, we made a port call at Halifax, Nova Scotia.”

It is interesting to note that all three COs were prior enlisted. It is also interesting to note that these skippers will all be taking their boat on deployment about the same time next year, but in different parts of the world -– ALBUQUERQUE in the Mid-East, SANTA FE in the West Pacific and NEW MEXICO in the North Atlantic.

The Grand Finale for this unprecedented “three-sub” crew visit was a reception at the residence of New Mexico’s Governor, the Honorable Susana Martinez. The Governor spent several hours with our undersea warriors, and endured a number of “selfies” with cellphone cameras. The COs presented ship’s plaques to the Governor and Army Brig. Gen. Juan Griego, New Mexico Deputy Adjutant General, read the Governor’s Proclamation designating October 13th as “New Mexico Submarine Fleet Day”. It just happened to also be Navy Day.

The Navy League’s New Mexico Council thinks it may have made history as it doubts that any other state has ever had a simultaneous visit of all its namesake ships. As the visiting crews returned to their respective homeports, they carried a new appreciation for the cities and state that their boats represent.

Left to right, CDR Trent Hesslink of the USS Albuquerque (SSN-706), CDR Todd Moore of the USS New Mexico (SSN-779) and CDR Timothy Poe of the USS Santa Fe (SSN-763) in KKOB AM Radio studios, Albuquerque, NM, Oct 13, 2014. All three New Mexico namesake submarine commanders in New Mexico at the same time, at the same place, for the first time ever! Photo courtesy of Rick Carver.

Left to right: CDR Timothy Poe of the USS Santa Fe (SSN-763), CDR Todd Moore of the USS New Mexico (SSN-779), Bob Clark of KKOB AM Radio and CDR Trent Hesslink of the USS Albuquerque (SSN-706) in KKOB AM Radio studios, Albuquerque, NM, Oct 13, 2014. All three New Mexico namesake submarine commanders in New Mexico at the same time, at the same place, for the first time ever! Photo courtesy of Rick Carver.

Left to right: CDR Trent Hesslink of USS Albuquerque (SSN-706) and CDR Todd Moore of USS New Mexico (SSN-779) leading the crews, warmly greeted at Santa Fe Community College, Santa Fe, NM, photo courtesy of Rick Carver.

CDR Timothy Poe of USS Santa Fe (SSN-763) and visiting 763 crew at the New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Photo courtesy of Rick Carver.

(Obviously in costume) CDR Timothy Poe of USS Santa Fe (SSN-763), CDR Todd Moore of USS New Mexico (SSN-779) and CDR Trent Hesslink of USS Albuquerque (SSN-706), toasting with a shot of "Snakebite", Bonanza Creek Saloon, Santa Fe, NM October 2014, Photo courtesy of Rick Carver.


Submarine New Mexico Surfaces in Home State

Photos by Rick Carver (unless otherwise indicated)

On August 5th and 6th, 2014, six members of the crew of USS New Mexico, visited Albuquerque and Santa Fe as guests of the Navy League's USS New Mexico Committee.

The crew was led by the submarine's Executive Officer (XO), LCDR Craig Litty, USN, of House Springs, MO, accompanied by his wife Sheila. Another member of the wardroom was L T Steven Connell, USN, the boat's Junior Officer of the Year, of Orlando FL. Enlisted men included Combat Systems Department Enlisted Advisor STSCS(SS) Raj Sodhi of Fairfax, VA; Sailor of the Quarter MM1(SS) Andrew Klink of Charlotte, NC; ET2(SS) Keith Dolecal of East Moriches, NY; and STSSN Robert Sanchez of Flagstaff, AZ.

LCDR Craig Litty, USN, Executive Officer, USS New Mexico (SSN-779)

Thanks to arrangements by Museum Collections Manager Rene Harris, our undersea warriors were able to visit the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe. They toured some exhibits pertaining to the battleship New Mexico and exchanged two dessert plates on loan to the Navy for two new ones. This was one of the primary missions Rene wanted to accomplish. The plates are part of a 24-piece set, each plate depicting a historical New Mexico event or scene- priceless works of art as is the entire 56-piece Tiffany silver service that once graced the wardroom of the battle-hardened USS New Mexico (BB-40) during the period 1918-1946, and later were used aboard the aircraft carriers USS Midway (CV-41) and USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31) prior to being returned to the citizens of New Mexico in 1963. The Museum is now the custodian after the silver service set rode the high seas for 45 years. The two plates, depicting the End of the Santa Fe Trail and Taos Pueblo had been on loan since commissioning four years ago, had traveled 150,000 nautical miles and had broken through the ice at the North Pole.

Crew observe work on dessert plate in New Mexico History Museum's conservation lab. Photo by Kate Nelson.

The two new plates represent Roca del Morro- Inscription Rock and Coronado's Expedition 1540-1542 and will take their place in the wardroom of USS New Mexico (SSN-779). The crew is very proud to carry mementos of the battleship aboard the second warship named after the state. The XO and Museum Director Jon Hunner executed the annual loan agreement. Museum Marketing Manager Kate Nelson interviewed the sailors for the museum's blog. The XO, speaking about having the plates onboard, "It's one of the key things that keep us grounded. Between these plates and what the committee sends us, it keeps us very close."

While in Santa Fe the sailors visited the USS Santa Fe exhibits in City Hall, conducted a walkabout on the Plaza, and met with Mayor Javier Gonzales, then enjoyed lunch at La Fonda Hotel's La Plazuela restaurant on the Plaza.

USS New Mexico submariners with Mayor Gonzales (far right)

That evening, the committee took the crew, dazzling in their summer whites, to Isotopes Baseball Stadium where they witnessed the Albuquerque Isotopes play the Tacoma Rainiers. But to get things started, the crew was escorted to the field where the XO threw out the first pitch using a colorful custom-printed USS New Mexico baseball, a ceremonial pitch, a bit high and wide, but an easy and souvenir for the catcher.

XO, with USS New Mexico baseball in hand, being interviewed by KOAT-TV

Custom-printed USS New Mexico baseball

XO throws first pitch

The crew stood at attention with the singer and saluted during the national anthem. At the top of the fourth inning, the sailors returned to the field for a military appreciation. Committee Vice Chair Damon Runyan was quoted as saying “I had great pride in the crew as they received a standing ovation from the baseball crowd – a real patriotic moment!” All of the crew’s participation was seen on the big screen.

XO and Senior Chief Sodhi with escort just prior to going
on the field for a military recognition ceremony

Crew posing with Isotopes team mascot “Orbit” (wearing Sr. Chief Sodhi’s hat)

Military recognition at Isotopes Park

The next morning, committee chairman Dick Brown brought the uniformed crew to Albuquerque’s Raymond Murphy VA Medical Center. For the next two hours, the sailors were introduced to 15 bed-ridden veterans by Public Affairs Specialists Bill Armstrong and Liz Lawrence. The vets represented all branches of the service and each was given a USS New Mexico ballcap and challenge coin. VA hospital staff and volunteers were also given hats and coins. One local Albuquerque vet received a USS New Mexico baseball – EMC(SS) Edward Dixon, USN(Ret) – imagine our submariners coming across a submariner – instant sea stories.

Retired submariner Chief Dixon with visiting sailors. Photo by Bill Armstrong

Sailors visit veteran in hospital lobby. Photo by Bill Armstrong.

The crew visited Bullhead Park on the 69th anniversary of the loss of USS Bullhead (SS-332), the last submarine lost during WWII and on the very day (August 6, 1945) when we dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Senior Chief Raj Sodhi was interviewed at the memorial by KOAT-TV.

Crew visit USS Bullhead Memorial. Photo by Dick Brown.

Sr. Chief Sodhi interviewed by KOAT-TV. Photo by Dick Brown

The committee arranged a ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway, at 2.7 miles, the world’s longest aerial tramway, where the sailors witnessed a parasail take off from 10,378 feet above sea level. This was followed by a committee dinner at sunset in the High Finance Restaurant. There just happened to be a table of active-duty Air Force nearby, and what followed was, as Damon called it, a tremendous feeling, as committee members and crew joined him in a toast to the airmen. “They were amazed and astounded that two tables of Navy folks would stand and toast them,” explained Damon, “Another great patriotic moment.” After dinner, the committee and submariners gathered on the lookout deck for remarks by the XO with a backdrop of sparkling city lights.

LCDR Litty and wife Sheila, and Committee Vice Chair Damon Runyan and wife Michelle, atop Sandia Peak. Photo by Dick Brown.

Committee representatives (L to R) Mark Schaefer and Michelle Runyan with MM1(SS) Andrew Klink, LT Steven Connell, STSSN Robert Sanchez and ET2(SS) Keith Dolecal. Photo by Dick Brown.

And so ended a great visit by the crew of USS New Mexico. They returned to their homeport of Groton, CT the next day.

Nautilus - From Dreams To Reality

The article below is being republished with permission from the Winter 2014 issue of THE SUBMARINE REVIEW, a publication of the Naval Submarine League of 5025D Blacklick Rd., Annandale, VA, 22003


by Dick Brown, Former ETR2(SS)

“What one man can conceive, another man can achieve.” — Jules Verne, 1873

“It was the skipper’s intention to surface at the North Pole, but there was
no break in the ice.”
— CAPT Shepherd M. Jenks, USN, Ret., Navigator,
USS NAUTILUS (SSN-571) — North Pole Transit, 1958

From the Greek word nautilos, meaning mariner, many vessels shared the name Nautilus, some long before the fictional Nautilus surfaced in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

The first was Robert Fulton's Nautilus. His submarine design was patented in France in 1798. His prototype had a collapsible mast and sail for surface propulsion and a hand-turned propeller for underwater propulsion. Before USS NAUTILUS, there were five U.S. Navy vessels by the same name. Two were sailing ships, a 12-gun schooner, commissioned in 1803, and another schooner, commissioned in 1847 for service in the Mexican-American War.

There was a Holland-class submarine prototype originally named NAUTILUS at keel-laying that became USS H-2 (SS-29) in 1911. There was USS NAUTILUS II (SP-559), a motor patrol boat, commissioned in 1917 for WWI service and there was an old diesel-electric boat, the decommissioned O-12 (SS-73), that was converted for use by the ill-fated 1931 Wilkins-Ellsworth Trans- Arctic Expedition and renamed Nautilus in honor of Jules Verne.

USS NAUTILUS (SS-168), a Narwhal-class diesel boat, saw WWII action in the Battle of Midway. Due to her large size, she was outfitted as an undersea troop carrier, landing Marines in the Gilbert Islands in August 1942 and again in November 1943 and putting scouts ashore on Attu in the Aleutians in May 1943. All in all, she made fourteen war patrols. The Royal Navy had eight sailing ships, a destroyer and a submarine named NAUTILUS but that’s another story.

Jules Verne’s Fictional Nautilus
In 1871, Jules Verne published the French edition of Vingt Mille Lieues Sous Les Mers — the classic adventure of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus submarine. The British edition of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea followed two years later. Today, onboard the NAUTILUS (memorial museum) is a first edition of the novel; it was also onboard during the submarine’s historic North Pole run.

Verne’s concept of a submarine was prophetic. He envisioned a high-speed, deep-diving vessel that could travel under polar ice. He saw stealth as the key to secret military operations. His submarine theme was inspired by the ongoing work of pioneer submarine designers as well as exhibits at the 1867 International Exposition in Paris where Verne witnessed progress in developing diving suits and other mechanical marvels. He was highly influenced by the discovery of electricity as well as a model of the French submarine PLONGEUR. But it was Robert Fulton’s primitive Nautilus of 1800 that inspired the name for Captain Nemo’s submarine. It naturally followed that the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine should also carry the name Nautilus.

In nautical terms, a league refers to a measure of distance traveled at sea, not to a measure of operating depth. At the time of Verne’s writing, no submarine could travel one league, let alone the fabled 20,000. Regardless, as Verne’s story goes, it was deep in the Pacific where a frigate encounters a giant sea monster.

During the ensuing attack, three men are thrown into the sea and promptly captured by the steel beast. The story follows their undersea adventures aboard the Nautilus, a secret electric submarine. Wandering the seas, seemingly in exile, Nemo directs Nautilus on a series of global adventures.

The mythical voyage starts in Japan and crosses the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean before venturing into the Red Sea. From there it traverses the Suez Tunnel, an underwater passage connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. Nautilus then visits the submerged land mass known as Atlantis, cruises in the South Atlantic and even noses up to the ice shelf in Antarctica, then reverses course, following the eastern seaboards of South and North America. The voyagers are attacked by a giant squid, walk along the sea floor with special air-breathing backpacks, and sink a marauding warship by ramming. They then cross the North Atlantic and are sucked into the Maelstrom off the coast of northern Norway. The three prisoners escape but the fate of the Nautilus and Captain Nemo remains unknown until the end of Verne’s sequel novel, The Mysterious Island.

Verne’s electric-powered Nautilus displaced 1507 tons compared to our Navy’s nuclear-powered NAUTILUS displacing 4092 tons. The mythical submarine had a double hull, a length of 230 feet, a beam of 26 feet and a draft of 24 feet. The real-life NAUTILUS, with a single hull, is longer at 324 feet but nearly matches Verne’s beam and draft at 28 and 26 feet, respectively. Both had floodable tanks and hydroplanes. Where they greatly differed was in test depth—an astounding 52,490 feet for Verne’s submarine. Crew complement also differed—only 20 or so for Verne’s Nautilus compared to 116 for USS NAUTILUS. Armament was simply a sign of the times–ramming at collision speed of 50 mph for Verne’s boat, six torpedo tubes for USS NAUTILUS.

Walt Disney’s first science fiction movie, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, is probably the best known of the many screen adaptations of Verne’s novel. Less than a month after release of the movie, the real captain, CDR Eugene P. Wilkinson, of the real NAUTILUS radioed “Underway on Nuclear Power”. NAUTILUS became the technological turning point in propulsion beneath the waves—the vanguard of a new age in undersea warfare.

The pioneering submarine designer Simon Lake was inspired by Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues. His first operational submarine sailed from Norfolk to Sandy Hook, New Jersey, a distance of 120 leagues. Oceanographers Robert Ballard, William Beebe and Jacques Cousteau were also inspired by Verne, as were CAPT Hyman G. Rickover, an immigrant from the Czar’s Russian empire, destined to become a 4-star admiral and Father of the Nuclear Navy, and an enterprising young naval officer, LT Shepherd M. Jenks.

NAUTILUS Navigator
When LT Shepherd Shep Jenks reported aboard USS NAUTILUS in 1956, he was originally assigned as the Engineer but then CDR William R. Anderson, Commanding Officer, made him the Navigator. It was a challenging role, especially when NAUTILUS embarked on the first-ever cruise under the North Pole. When we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the commissioning of the submarine in September 2014, Shep Jenks would have celebrated his 88th birthday. Sadly, he passed away on March 26, 2014

Shep graduated from the United States Naval Academy, class of '49. After Submarine School in 1952, he was transferred to the USS BLACKFIN (SS-322) where he qualified in submarines. He was accepted into Nuclear Power School in 1955. He served aboard NAUTILUS from 1956 to 1958.

Operation Sunshine
In the late 1950s, the Cold War was heating up; we were beginning to build ballistic missile submarines; the International Geophysical Year—man’s most ambitious study of his environment— was well underway; A-bombs were being detonated in the Nevada desert; and the United States was caught flat-footed when USSR launched Sputnik-I (Russian for fellow traveler) in October 1957. The launch of Sputnik-II a month later caused great concern with predictions of imminent disaster for the Free World. Of course the worry was that if the Soviets can put satellites in space, they may soon be able to fire a nuclear-armed ballistic missile at the United States. The space race was on but the U.S. program was sputtering over USSR’s sputniks, as evidenced by the embarrassing, but highly televised, launch pad explosion of Vanguard in December 1957.

Reacting to the psychological impact of the Soviets placing two satellites in orbit, President Dwight Eisenhower directed the U.S. Navy to plan an undersea transit of the Arctic Ocean by the world’s first nuclear submarine. He felt such a feat would enhance the credibility of the United States. Looking back, Shep recalls, “I think the President wanted to reassert our position as a world power, but the main reason was to prove that we could transit to the North Pole by submarine.” Indeed it was most important to determine if the Arctic could be exploited to our strategic military advantage, especially in view of the emerging threat of ICBMs.

Officially, the White House called for Operation Sunshine, a misleading code name to imply a mission in warm southern waters. Furthermore, a cover story was concocted on why NAUTILUS had ventured into the Pacific. She visited San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle, ostensibly to help familiarize our Pacific forces with the advantages of nuclear submarines when in reality she was on a classified mission.

Navigation Challenges
The senior civilian scientist on the successful transpolar voyage, Dr. Waldo Lyon, had developed an instrument to help a submarine avoid ice collisions. It worked in the reverse of a fathometer, with an upward-looking sonar transducer to map the bottom profile of the icepack. Shep is highly complimentary of his civilian counterpart, the world’s foremost authority on sea ice, “Waldo Lyon was really good at his job, very intelligent.” Besides continuous use of her sonar systems and topside fathometer, NAUTILUS also conducted CCTV and periscope observations of the underside of the icepack. At that time of the year, they had continuous daylight.

And then there is the problem of magnetic compasses—they are just not reliable near the geographic pole, but instead tend to align themselves with the magnetic pole. Gyrocompasses, aligning to true north and measuring deviations from that axis, perform more reliably. But as East-West meridians or longitudinal lines converge on the pole, gyrocompasses also become erratic.

The solution was the Ship’s Inertial Navigation System or SINS. Shep explained, “We had the first SINS; it was installed aboard NAUTILUS in April 1958.” It operated independently of any reference point, except for the submarine’s starting position. It was an elaborate set of electronic equipment, unlike anything then in use. With it, the navigation team, which consisted of the navigator and four enlisted quartermasters, created a virtual map of the voyage from start to finish.

If NAUTILUS had depended on standard navigation equipment at the time, it could have become so confused that it risked traveling in circles or veering off on the wrong longitudinal tangent—a phenomenon the crew called longitude roulette.

Although impressed with SINS, the skipper had reservations, at least initially. Being new technology, he proceeded with considerable caution, minimizing the number of changes in course, speed, angle and depth, so as not to confuse SINS. As submariners of the late 50s and 60s will remember, there was a saying about SINS: If you tell it where it is, it will tell you where you are. As unproven as it was, this revolutionary navigational tool contributed greatly to the success of the mission.

Setting a Course for the North Pole
As the Navy continued to gain more operational experience with its first nuclear submarines, it came time to test their capabilities in the Arctic. By early February 1957, NAUTILUS undersea warriors could boast that their submarine had already steamed 20,000 leagues under the sea. In fact, they were so giddy about the submerged endurance capabilities of nuclear submarines that some jokingly stated they planned to surface every four years to re-enlist.

On August 19, 1957, NAUTILUS departed Groton on a classified mission. Ten days and a submerged run of 4000 miles later she rendezvoused with the conventional submarine USS TRIGGER (SS-564) in the north Greenland Sea. Before approaching the icepack, she practiced vertical ascents at zerospeed, and then made her first exploratory probe under the ice. At 81-degrees North latitude, NAUTILUS found open water, but overshot the mark and slammed into the ice, bending back both periscopes and damaging the leading edge of the sail. She was now optically blind, but managed to return to TRIGGER waiting at edge of the icepack. The crew, despite high seas and bad weather, straightened and repaired no. 1 scope but no. 2 was a total loss.

On a second excursion under the icepack in early September, NAUTILUS reached 87-degrees North—180 miles from the North Pole—further north than any ship had ever ventured. On that run she lost both gyrocompasses and in turning back she lost her way. Surfacing was not an option. By September 6th, TRIGGER was about to report NAUTILUS past due. Happily she showed the next day. TRIGGER then made a few short runs under the icepack and Nautilus made one more on September 8th. NAUTILUS then joined NATO’s naval exercise — Operation Strikeback.

Despite navigation system failures and periscope damage, NAUTILUS collected valuable scientific data on polar conditions and ocean depth for future Arctic operations. While Pentagon officials dribbled some details of the Arctic expedition to the news media, NAUTILUS ice operations were soon overshadowed by Sputnik news which in turn provided even more impetus for a transpolar voyage.

In June 1958, NAUTILUS departed Seattle with top secret orders to conduct Operation Sunshine, the first crossing of the North Pole by a ship of any kind. Ten days later, she passed through the Aleutians, gateway to the Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean. She transited the Bering Sea and entered the Chukchi Sea, but was forced to turn back to Pearl Harbor due to a combination of giant ice stalactites hanging above the sail and shallow water below the keel—with fifty-two feet from the top of the sail to the keel, there was not much water space left for safe submarine operations. Shep points out, “We turned around not only because of insufficient safety margin for maneuvering, but because we did not have reliable charts.” In an emergency, the skipper was prepared to use torpedoes to blast a hole in the ice if NAUTILUS, which did not have a hardened sail, needed to surface quickly.

During the layover at Pearl Harbor, waiting for the Chukchi ice to thaw, Shep, posing as a DEW Line Inspector from the Pentagon, anything but a submariner, conducted many aerial reconnaissance flights over the icepack aboard a P2V, ironically, a submarine hunter operating out of Fairbanks. Shep explained, “I flew over the icepack to study the ice and look for holes.” He gathered vital information that allowed NAUTILUS to embark on a second attempt. The layover also provided an opportunity for the crew to brief our Pacific Forces at Pearl Harbor in the ways of the Nuclear Navy.

In a way, the misleading mission name, Operation Sunshine, really did apply for a time, as the boat waited more than a month in warm Hawaiian waters. Shep finally observed dramatic improvements in ice conditions. It was July 23, 1958 when NAUTILUS quietly slipped away in the night, bound for the Arctic and a secret west-east transit under the North Pole.

Transpolar Track
CDR Anderson, well aware that Washington was anxious to make headlines, suspected that there were plans for an Atlanticside run to the pole by the nuclear submarine USS SKATE (SSN- 578)—a race of sorts to the North Pole. After all, NAUTILUS had her chance, now it was SKATE’s turn, and she would have the benefit of data collected by NAUTILUS the previous year. As it turns out, SKATE suffered propeller damage in a collision with USS FULTON (AS-11) and did not leave until July 30th.

On July 27th, at a point where the 170-degrees West meridian crosses the Aleutians, NAUTILUS passed a group of volcanic islands to starboard with the name Islands of Four Mountains— seemingly ripped from one of Jules Verne’s novels. To port was Yunaska Island. Here NAUTILUS reached a new milestone, having now traveled 40,000 leagues.

NAUTILUS threaded her way through the Bering Strait between Siberia and Alaska where the depth averaged a mere twenty fathoms. The crew was not too worried about being detected by the Soviets. According to Shep, “We were sure they did not patrol that area.” Now in the shallow Chukchi Sea and just above the Arctic Circle, NAUTILUS surfaced and spent two days searching for deep water at the edge of the icepack along Alaska’s northern coast.

Just off Point Barrow on August 1st, NAUTILUS submerged, turned due North and started her long historic run to the geographic North Pole. This was a straight run under the ice along the 155-degrees West meridian through uncharted waters. Shep explains that they were able to do some mapping of the ocean floor, “That was one of the reasons we made the trip. I don’t remember discovering any underwater mountain ranges or canyons. It was basically a flat bottom.” Actually, bathymetric readings across the Arctic Basin showed depths plunging to 2100 fathoms between 72 and 74-degrees North latitude, then depths ranging between 500 and 2000 fathoms to the Pole. Shep was rather surprised about their soundings in the Arctic Basin. “It was very deep!” he recalled. Admittedly, there were some underwater mountain ridges that rose quite suddenly, giving pause to the quartermasters hovering over the plotter and causing the officer of the deck to order reduced speed.

About 1000 yards from the Pole, the skipper addressed the crew on the 1MC: “All hands, this is the Captain speaking, in a few moments NAUTILUS will realize a goal long sought by those who have sailed the seas . . . standby, 10, 8, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1, mark — for the USA and the U.S. Navy—the North Pole!” The submarine reached 90-degrees North latitude at 11:15 pm (EDT) on August 3, 1958 but continued her arrow-straight course along the 155- degree meridian, now headed due south. Shep reports, “It was the skipper’s intention to surface at the North Pole, but there was no break in the ice.” As tempting as it was, the skipper decided not to risk confusing his navigation gear by looking for a place to surface. As NAUTILUS zoomed under the Pole at 20 knots and 400 feet, the fathometer measured the depth at 2235 fathoms or 13,410 feet!

Shep does not remember any celebration when they reached the Pole, probably because he was busy in the control room, but the skipper read a letter he had composed for the President to ship’s company crowded into the crew’s mess. In the back of his mind, the skipper worried that SKATE could have reached the pole before them and was on her way back. There was no way of knowing.

It is interesting to note, while NAUTILUS crossed under the pole, a half-century earlier, RADM Robert Peary, USN crossed over the pole. He traveled over the pack ice by dogsled and reached the geographic North Pole on April 6, 1909.

After another day, NAUTILUS adjusted her southerly course to follow along the Greenwich Meridian into the Greenland Sea. By August 5th she was proceeding south between the northern extremities of Greenland and Spitzbergen. After traveling 1830 miles under the ice, NAUTILUS finally surfaced northeast of Greenland to radio CNO Admiral Arleigh Burke a simple but historic message “NAUTILUS 90 North”. On August 7th, between Iceland and Greenland, NAUTILUS passed SKATE heading north. Five days later, SKATE reached the pole and surfaced in a polynya (area of thin ice or open water), becoming the first to break through the icepack at the North Pole.

Meanwhile, NAUTILUS angled southwesterly through the Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland and made a slight jog toward Reykjavik so that the skipper could board a helicopter and make his way to Washington where he participated in a press conference and a briefing for President Eisenhower on the success of Operation Sunshine.

During the White House visit, an event that inadvertently failed to invite RADM Rickover, CDR Anderson was awarded the Legion of Merit by the President for pioneering a “Northwest Passage”, albeit, a submerged sea-lane, from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Later, the entire crew was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, the first peacetime bestowing of such honors. Meantime, with Executive Officer LCDR Frank Adams in command, NAUTILUS made a beeline for the British Isles where the skipper rejoined his boat.

An Extraordinary Naval Career
Shep, by then a rising star in the Submarine Force, was the commissioning engineer on USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (SSBN-598) in 1959 and onboard during the first Polaris ballistic missile firing. He was second in his PCO class; his good friend and NAUTILUS shipmate LT John W. Harvey finished first and was assigned as CO of the USS THRESHER (SSN-593). Unfortunately, Wes Harvey perished when THRESHER went down with all hands on April 10, 1963. Shep became the CO of USS SKIPJACK (SSN-585) in 1963, CO of Nuclear Power Training Unit at West Milton, NY in 1964, CO of USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (SSBN-602) in 1968 and CO of the submarine tender FULTON in 1970. He retired in 1971 with the rank of Captain. After working for Bechtel for ten years, Shep had a new calling and became an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church. Reverend Jenks performed funeral services at Arlington National Cemetery for retired RADM Richard O’Kane, WWII Medal of Honor recipient, in 1994 and for retired CAPT William Anderson, his former commanding officer of NAUTILUS, in 2007.

Shep Jenks was a longtime member of the Naval Submarine League and the Navy League of the United States. He served on the Navy League’s USS New Mexico Committee in the early days, when he and wife Nancy lived in Albuquerque, and delivered the invocation at the naming ceremony with Secretary of the Navy Gordon England in December 2004. Shep and Nancy then moved to Vallejo, California.

As an aside, this past March, the Groton-based USS NEW MEXICO (SSN-779) participated with the San Diego-based USS HAMPTON (SSN-767) in ICEX 2014. Such Arctic exercises help prepare our Submarine Force for a wide range of operations in a most challenging environment. The base of operations for ICEX 2014 was Ice Camp Nautilus, 200 miles north of Prudhoe Bay. ICEX 2014 assures continued access to the Arctic region and hones the skills of our submarine crews as they transit between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

CDR Bill Anderson, whose strength was in giving his shipmates all the credit, considered the work of Shep and his team to be the most remarkable piece of nautical navigation ever accomplished. In the absence of nautical charts, taking star sightings, shooting bearings on landmarks, exchanging electronic transmissions, or viewing what lay ahead through a window like Verne’s NAUTILUS, the first submerged Arctic crossing was indeed remarkable. Years later, Shep reflected, “Our navigation team, by the grace of God, had individual personalities and gifts that perfectly fit the challenge we had on each of the voyages north”. Jules Verne once wrote “My readers are my passengers and my duty is to ensure that they are properly treated during the voyage and satisfied on their return”. Shep shared this sentiment. Safety of the crew was paramount and his careful navigation under the ice led to the safe return of NAUTILUS.

Polaris—the North Star—that holds steady as the northern skies circle around it, has guided sailors across the oceans for centuries. While Polaris was not available to assist Shep and his team, it was there in spirit, and it continued to play a significant role in Shep’s naval career—first Polaris ballistic missile submarine—first Polaris missile firing—first Polaris strategic deterrent patrol. CAPT Shepherd Jenks—a legend in the submarine community—saw dreams of early science fiction become a real-life ocean-to-ocean journey beneath the North Pole.

Note: The author thanks CAPT Shepherd Jenks, USN, Ret. for his valuable contributions to this article. Other contributors include Al Cole, Vice Commander of USSVI’s Mare Island Base, who served aboard USS TINOSA (SSN-606), USS SKIPJACK (SSN-585) and as COB on USS SEAWOLF (SSN-575); LCDR Ray Raczek, USN, Ret. who was the Reactor Control Division Chief aboard NAUTILUS on the 1957 polar run; and NAUTILUS Plankowner LCDR Tom Brames, USN, Ret.

About the Author: Dick Brown served when our Submarine Force was transitioning from diesel- electric to nuclear propulsion and from Regulus to Polaris missile strategic deterrent patrols. He qualified on USS BARBERO (SSG-317) while on patrol in the Bering Sea, and was on the launch crew for the nuclear-tipped Regulus cruise missiles that BARBERO carried. He made four patrols on USS LAFAYETTE (SSBN-616) as a member of the Reactor Control Division. He currently chairs the Navy League’s USS NEW MEXICO Committee.

Nautical chart showing the west-to-east transpolar track by USS NAUTILUS in 1958, signed by most of ship’s company plus four civilian engineers and scientists.

Submariners learn culinary lessons at La Posta de Mesilla

By James Staley / permission to reprint Las Cruces Sun-News article received Monday, August 11, 2014 from James Staley (phone: 575-541-5476) on Twitter
POSTED: 08/08/2014 05:58:58 PM MDT

Chief Petty Officer Glyn Ashley, left, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Deven Nichols, center, are directed by Mayra Sierra, La Posta de Mesilla cook, in the restaurant´s kitchen on Friday. The two sailors are learning to cook about 20 recipes and will be sharing with their shipmates aboard the USS New Mexico -- a nuclear-powered Virginia class submarine. (Robin Zielinski — Sun-News)

MESILLA >> The food he ate during all his years of service in the Navy doesn't stand out to Tom Hutchinson. "I can promise you this, the food is much better now," said Hutchinson, a former aviator who retired as a captain in 2002. He's working to ensure it stays that way.

This week Hutchinson, who owns the famed La Posta de Mesilla, guided two submariners from the USS New Mexico through his restaurant, giving them a behind-the-scenes look at how Mexican food is traditionally prepared in the region. "This is going to really work to improve the quality of all our food," said Chief Petty Officer Glyn Ashley, 31, who oversees food service aboard the nuclear submarine.

Tom Hutchinson, La Posta de Mesilla owner, looks at a model of the USS New Mexico displayed in the restaurant on the Mesilla Plaza. In 2009 the submarine's galley was named after La Posta de Mesilla, called La Posta Abajo de Mar (La Posta Under the Sea). (Robin Zielinski — Sun-News)

Ashley and Petty Officer 3rd Class Deven Nichols, 21, sat in La Posta just after lunch on Friday, speaking fondly of the fajitas and chile rellenos they tasted. They plan to take techniques and ideas learned this week to spice up the submarine's weekly Taco Tuesday.

This week was the first time they set foot in La Posta, but their submarine's galley bears the restaurant's name. It won a statewide contest in 2010, before the submarine was commissioned.

Hutchinson also took the submariners to Chavez Farms, where La Posta buys its chile, and to Young Guns Produce in Hatch, so they could learn more about the beloved local crop.

Nichols, the head cook from Dallas, said he was impressed with the way La Posta prepares its chile. He hopes to enroll in culinary school after he gets out the service.

Ashley, from Greenville, S.C., said he absorbed a lot of operational knowledge from Hutchinson, who has owned La Posta with his wife since 1996. The tourist spot has been open for 75 years as a restaurant.

Hutchinson said the submariners learned about 20 dishes during their time in Doña Ana County.

He said about a dozen Navy personnel have come through La Posta's kitchen in the past few years to learn Mexican food cooking.

They come thanks to funding by the Navy League's New Mexico Council, a nonprofit group that supports sailors.

Ashley said he's grateful for the support he and his fellow crew members have received from New Mexicans. He said it was "far above" the backing he experienced from other states when he was aboard vessels named for them.

Another group is in Albuquerque, he said.

James Staley can be reached at 575-541-5476.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Deven Nichols stirs ground beef on Friday at La Posta. Nichols is taking knowledge of about 20 recipes back to his shipmates aboard the USS New Mexico. (Robin Zielinski — Sun-News)

USS New Mexico Chief Petty Officer Glyn Ashley pushes forward a combination plate from the serving window in the La Posta kitchen on Friday. Ashley is learning to cook about 20 recipes and will be sharing with his shipmates aboard the USS New Mexico. (Robin Zielinski — Sun-News)

USS New Mexico in a League of Its Own

July 22, 2014
Story & Photos by Dick Brown

On July 22, 2014, the Navy League New Mexico Council’s USS New Mexico Committee participated in a very special event at NM Veterans’ Memorial Park.

Four color-coded Midwest teams representing the All American Girls Professional Baseball League celebrate their 2014 Reunion in Albuquerque.

It was the occasion of the 2014 Reunion of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) and the two-inning, four-team reenactment of a baseball game that typified the iconic 1992 movie “A League of Their Own” starring Geena Davis and Tom Hanks. The film told the story of two sisters joining the first AAGPBL during WWII, when male baseball players had gone off to fight for our nation. The league inspired young women with self-confidence and spirit. In a sense, they served as pioneers in women’s sports. Still to this day the league promotes girls baseball through nostalgic annual reunions held around the country and this year Albuquerque was selected as the host city. Attending this year’s reunion were original players from America’s difficult war years, such as Terry Uselmann of Park Ridge, Illinois, and nearly 300 fans.

The committee had an outdoor exhibit and sales booth featuring, of course, USS New Mexico baseball caps and colorful custom-printed baseballs.

Damon Runyan showing a USS New Mexico poster to out-of-state visitors.

The baseball celebration included a ceremony featuring the Dukes of Albuquerque Band; Albuquerque’s Eastdale Little League girls softball team; a color guard/rifle unit; and remarks by Tourism Cabinet Secretary Monique Jacobson, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, and Navy Leaguer Damon Runyan.

Damon took the opportunity to describe the Navy League’s mission and to highlight the work it does locally to support the officers and crew of our state namesake submarine. He then distributed thirty baseballs to the Eastdale girls who in turn presented them to the AAGPBL players, past and present, representing four mid-western women teams from across the country: Rockford Peaches, Racine Belles, Kenosha Comets and South Bend Blue Sox.

Damon promoting USS New Mexico and passing souvenir baseballs down the line of Eastdale coaches and players.

The Eastdale girls major softball team deserve special mention as they won the Little League Softball World Series in Portland, Oregon in August 2012 – the second champion from New Mexico in the 40-year history of the World Series. The Eastdale Little League team demolished its competitors, winning all six of its games by a combined score of 67-5.

Eastdale Little League helps Navy League pass out USS New Mexico baseballs to AAGPBL players.

Baseballs being presented to AAGPBL players.

New Mexico at the Top of the World

May 7, 2014
Story by: Dick Brown

USS New Mexico had the good fortune to be selected for ICEX (Ice Exercise) 2014. In late February she was seen cruising down the Thames River, past USS Nautilus (SSN-571), bound for points north. She transited up the Atlantic seaboard and across the Arctic Circle to the North Pole. There she paused to check on ice conditions in advance of a return visit, then on to Ice Camp Nautilus, 200 miles north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.

USS New Mexico at the geographic North Pole

ICEX is organized by the Navy’s Arctic Submarine Laboratory (ASL) about every two years. Ice Camp Nautilus is ASL’s temporary village on the icepack consisting of command hut, mess shed, sleeping quarters, runway and heliport. This year’s ICEX was a two-week joint tactical exercise by USA, UK and Canada, and began on March 17th. It not only involved Groton-based USS New Mexico (SSN-779) but also San Diego-based USS Hampton (SSN-767). Below Ice Camp Nautilus, as Russia annexed Crimea, the two submarines rendezvoused for a set of under-ice war games.

Ice Camp Nautilus – note USS New Mexico in center background

With Russia stepping up claims in the Arctic, it is important for our Submarine Force to train and prepare for a wide range of operations in one of the most challenging environments on the planet. ICEX assures continued access to the Arctic region while honing the skills of our submarine crews.
New Mexico surfaced at the edge of the makeshift village and moored to the ice floe. Hampton arrived in the area the next day. The Los Angeles-class boat’s role in the exercise was to simulate a Russian Akula-class submarine. Later a crack or lead split the ice floe right down the runway. With concerns for safety, it was decided to end ICEX 2014 on March 23rd and dismantle Ice Camp Nautilus a little earlier than planned.

USS New Mexico surfacing at Ice Camp

USS Hampton joins ICEX 2014

Guests of the Chief of Naval Operations, ADM Jonathan Greenert, himself a submariner, arrived by air from Prudhoe Bay for an under-ice cruise. CDR Todd Moore, Commanding Officer, reported that this ICEX had an exceptionally high level of distinguished visitors (DVs). Besides the CNO they included Undersea Warfare Director RADM Joseph Tofalo, Sub Group Two Commander RDML Ken
Perry, Undersecretary of Defense Frank Kendall, US Senator Angus King (I-ME), Congressman Steve Pearce (R-NM), Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, New York Times (NYT) Reporter Thomas Friedman, and Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Reporter Julian Barnes.
Our USS New Mexico Committee has been in communication with Julian Barnes. He reported “The New Mexico decorations are quite prominent in the submarine —the New Mexico flag and hot air balloon wall coverings. You can see them in both videos with my ICEX stories.”

Julian adds “They presented us with hot pepper pins when we arrived and served coffee roasted in New Mexico — and the crew was definitely impressed with the dedication of its New Mexico sponsors.”
Julian’s WSJ articles were titled “Cold War Echoes Under the Arctic Ice — American Naval Exercise Using a Russian Submarine Takes On New Importance” and “Life on a Navy Sub Relies on Rules: Some Dead Serious, Others Completely Ridiculous”, published on March 26th and May 1st, respectively. They both reflected very well on USS New Mexico. Earlier, on January 13th, his WSJ article “Arctic Passage Opens Challenges For U.S. Military — Thinning Polar Ice Expected to Give Way to New Commercial Waterways and Resource-Rich Frontier” was published.
Tom Friedman’s NYT article “Parallel Parking in the Arctic Circle — Aboard USS New Mexico in the Arctic” was published on March 29th. He said, “My strongest impression was experiencing something you see too little of these days on land: “Excellence.” You’re riding in a pressurized steel tube undersea. If anyone turns one knob the wrong way on the reactor or leaves a vent open, it can be death for everyone. This produces a unique culture among these mostly 20-something submariners.”
Besides the coverage by WSJ and NYT, the Navy news media ran at least a dozen stories on ICEX and USS New Mexico.

NM Congressman Steve Pearce

Congressman Pearce described his undersea experience, “I had the privilege of participating in the Navy’s ICEX operations. During this two day trip to the Arctic, I took part in a number of briefings, drills, and activities around and aboard the USS New Mexico — showcasing the mission and capabilities of the ship. In addition to the operations being conducted, I was able to interact on a one-on-one basis with the sailors aboard the USS New Mexico.”

Distinguished visitors prepare to board New Mexico

CNO with YN1(SS) Gaines, note red chile ristra upper right

CNO presentation to the officers and crew of USS New Mexico, accepting is Executive Officer LCDR Craig Litty

Senator King stated, “After touring Camp Nautilus, we made our way over to the USS New Mexico, a Virginia-class nuclear powered attack submarine that had broken through the ice only a few hours earlier. After we boarded, the submarine began its descent down to about 500 feet, where the Navy spent the next 20 hours conducting maneuvers and testing the ship's capabilities beneath the ice. . . Perhaps, however, the most impressive part of the entire trip was the quality of the people serving aboard.”
After the exercise, New Mexico sailors had some “ice liberty” at Ice Camp Nautilus. Then on her return, New Mexico surfaced at the North Pole for some more ice liberty.

Incognito sailor on ice liberty at Ice Station Nautilus

Arctic Village People?

Skipper Todd Moore at the North Pole

Crew at the Top of the World

Ice football at North Pole

US flag at the North Pole

On this trip, New Mexico celebrated her fourth birthday. She was commissioned at Naval Station Norfolk on March 27th 2010 and turned four years old in the Arctic Ocean on March 27th 2014. For her onboard celebration, the ship’s culinary specialists crafted a special birthday cake.

Happy Birthday, USS New Mexico!

Before returning to port in Groton on Good Friday, the boat made a week-long port call in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Photos Courtesy of US Navy

In Memory – Leo Davis (1922-2013)

Leo was a combat submariner and Fire Control Technician during WWII (1942-1946), earning the Bronze Star & various campaign medals. His battle station was in the conning tower of USS Cod (SS-224). Leo was one of 15 crewmen who made all seven war patrols. His old boat survives today as a submarine museum in Cleveland. In life after the Navy, Leo was a journeyman electrician and electrical contractor; president of SubVets WWII, Sandia Base; and a USSVI Holland Club member. He was a charter member the Navy League USS New Mexico Committee.

Leo Davis

Leo’s wish to be buried at sea was fulfilled by USS New Mexico, but in such a way and in such a place that he could never have imagined. His cremains were consigned to the deep, shot from torpedo tube #1, while submerged at the North Pole.

In Memory - Shep Jenks (1926-2014)

In 1956, LT Shepherd “Shep” Jenks reported aboard USS Nautilus as the Navigator. It was a challenging role as he guided Nautilus on the first-ever transpolar under-ice voyage, passing under the North Pole on August 3, 1958. Sadly, Shep passed away on March 26, 2014 at age 87, while USS New Mexico operated in the Arctic, nearly 60 years after the commissioning of the world’s first nuclear submarine.
Shep Jenks was a graduate of the Naval Academy, Class of ’49. After Nautilus, he was the commissioning engineer on USS George Washington (SSBN-598), the CO of USS Skipjack (SSN-585), the CO of Nuclear Power Training Unit, the CO of USS Abraham Lincoln (SSBN-602) and the CO of USS Fulton (AS-11). He retired with the rank of Captain in 1971. After working for Bechtel for ten years, Shep had a new calling and became an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church. Reverend Jenks performed funeral services at Arlington National Cemetery for retired RADM Richard O’Kane, WWII Medal of Honor recipient, in 1994 and for retired CAPT William Anderson, his former commanding officer of Nautilus, in 2007.

Rev Shep Jenks

Shep Jenks was a longtime member of the Naval Submarine League and the Navy League of the United States. He served on the Navy League’s USS New Mexico Committee in the early days, when he and wife Nancy lived in Albuquerque, and delivered the invocation at the naming ceremony with Secretary of the Navy Gordon England in December 2004. Shep and Nancy were living in Vallejo, California at the time of his death.

USS New Mexico Family Times April 2014

April, 2014

Three more videos of USS New Mexico at Ice Camp Nautilus.

Dick Brown

First, Rear Admiral Perry, COMSUBGRUTWO, with USS New Mexico at ICEX base camp.

Second, DVs disembarking from the boat.

Lastly, CNO on bridge, crew clearing ice from topside.

We have one REALLY COOL sub!

USS New Mexico surfacing in a polynya (area of open water or thin ice) at Ice Camp Nautilus on March 22, 2014.

Dick Brown

ICEX 2014: Navigating the World's Last Frontier

3/27/2014 9:11:00 AM
By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Julianne Metzger, Chief of Naval Operations Public Affairs

ICE CAMP NAUTILUS (NNS) -- The Navy's top admiral, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, spent time last weekend at the Navy's Arctic Ice Camp and embarked aboard the USS New Mexico (SSN 779) as it participated in Ice Exercise 2014 (ICEX) with USS Hampton (SSN 767) beneath the Arctic Ocean.

"It's necessary to continue to ensure our systems, our sensors, our weapons and our platforms as we move to the Virginia-class submarine are proficient to operate correctly in the Arctic," said Greenert. "And it's also to build the next generation of submarine folks who will operate in the Arctic."

The mission of the ICEX is to train in the Arctic environment to refine and validate procedures and required equipment, as the Arctic Ocean serves as a route for submarines to transit in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

CNO has touted undersea dominance and the Arctic maritime domain as essential areas of focus for the Navy. Understandably, this exercise created a great opportunity to merge these two focus areas and learn within the environment and build a knowledge base for operations there.

The Arctic has been and will be a focus area for the Navy in years to come, said Greenert.

The President released the Implementation Plan for the National Strategy for the Arctic Region in January. The Department of Defense is preparing for possible changes in the Arctic's operating conditions due to the discussion of climate change and receding ice.

ICEX will continue to expand to a more comprehensive exercise in the future, said Greenert.

"We'll leverage what we've learned in this and future ICEX assessments to work with our partners in industry to develop technologies for our other platforms and personnel who will operate in this environment," he said.

The CNO's visit began in the nation's northernmost point, Prudhoe Bay, Ala. From there, CNO like other scientists and international partners, flew 150 miles north to Ice Camp Nautilus. The ice camp, adrift on the Arctic sea ice, supports the overall ice exercise conducted by the Submarine Force and the Arctic Submarine Laboratory.

Of his first impressions of the camp, "Isn't it astounding that here is one of our pieces of sovereignty out in the middle of the ice, surfacing, and then its crew waiting as if we were walking down a pier in Connecticut, San Diego, Norfolk, or Bremerton [to board]," said Greenert.

Despite the frigid conditions the submarine people were acting as though it was business as normal, said Greenert.

"Once we got onboard, the camaraderie the awareness of the crew that they were doing something special was impressive," said Greenert. "The crew was very proud, and the ownership the crew had for their ship and systems was extraordinary."

Operating in the undersea domain can be problematic, but the added challenge of operating beneath the ice requires a special kind of precision, said Greenert.

"In the back of your mind if trouble ever emerges - if you have flooding or a serious fire you head to the surface," said Greenert, who is also a former submariner. "You can't do that in the Arctic, with ice all around and above you."

Witnessing the alertness, awareness and teamwork the New Mexico crew displayed while surfacing through the ice elicited applause from the ICEX visitors aboard, said Greenert.

The vastness and beauty of the arctic combined with the unforgiving environment is something that is a highlight of his 38-year naval career, said the admiral. "The extraordinary nature of being able to go to the North Pole, I'm still trying to internalize it," said Greenert.

RIP - Captain Shepherd “Shep” M. Jenks, USN(Ret)

March 27, 2014

Cold War Echoes Under The Arctic Ice American Naval Exercise Using A Russian Submarine Takes On New Importance

March 26, 2014
Julian E. Barnes, Wall Street Journal

BENEATH THE ARCTIC OCEAN -– Five hundred feet below the Arctic ice cap, the USS New Mexico's crew filled two torpedo tubes. "Match sonar bearings and shoot," ordered the skipper, Cmdr. Todd Moore. The air pressure rose sharply as a simulated torpedo headed toward its simulated target: a Russian Akula-class submarine.

The Arctic exercise, one of two over this past weekend, was intended as a show of U.S. force for the benefit of America's allies, defense officials said. The drills were arranged before Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea province, these people said, but have taken on new geopolitical significance as tensions soar between East and West.

The simulated attack came amid a new era of increasingly cold U.S. relations with Moscow. U.S.-Russian cooperation in the Arctic came to a sudden halt after the U.S. recently canceled a joint naval exercise in the northern waters and a bilateral meeting on Coast Guard Arctic operations. The U.S. also put on hold work on an Arctic submarine rescue partnership.

"This trip had a slightly different cast to it because hunting mythical submarines took on more urgency," said Sen. Angus King (I., Maine), who came as an observer. "This is the only ocean where we confront each other."

Defense officials said they chose a Russian simulated sub as the target because that was the only other nation that operates in the Arctic. Moreover, these people said the exercise wasn't a signal that the U.S. sees a military conflict on the horizon.

Russian officials didn't respond to a request to comment.

Across the Arctic Ocean, the U.S. has been conducting ice exercises with submarines since 1947. During the 1980s, the Navy had three ice camps a year, a frequency that declined rapidly after the Cold War's end. The Navy is considering a renewed commitment to the Arctic as a retreating ice sheet opens up new sea lanes and makes oil exploration more feasible.

As part of the exercise, which took place 150 miles off the north coast of Alaska, the Navy sent two subs beneath the Arctic Ocean to test their ability to operate, punch through the ice, find other submarines, hide and fire their torpedoes. The Navy publicized its exploits on social media.

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, who viewed the exercise, said showcasing American subs' ability to operate and to collect intelligence in any corner of the world undetected is critical to U.S. security. The U.S. has a fleet of 72 subs compared with Russia's approximate 60.

"If our allies and friends are reassured, that is a deterrent," said Adm. Greenert. "It is about being able to get to any area of the world and people understanding that we can."

The same weekend, 440 U.S. Marines concluded another Arctic exercise, this one in northern Norway with other allied troops, near the Russian border.

Norway says it plans to continue cooperating with Russia on search-and-rescue missions in the Arctic, but is reviewing its military-to-military cooperation with Moscow, said Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide. Norway is building a $125 million pier to help make it easier to move American and North Atlantic Treaty Organization military gear in and out of the country, U.S. defense officials said.

Ms. Soreide said she didn't want to remilitarize the border. "At the same time we do have, and want to have, situational awareness for our own country and the alliance," she said in an interview.

Across the Arctic Ocean, Ice Camp Nautilus, this year's base, was named after the first sub to transit the Arctic in 1958. Basically a tent and some temporary wooden shacks perched on a cracked and shifting chunk of ice, the camp conducted a variety of Arctic experiments and tests, including the ability of a new Navy satellite system to send and transmit classified data more reliably in the high north than older satellites.

This year, the first ice exercise since 2011, the Navy sent two subs – the USS New Mexico and the USS Hampton, an older Los Angeles class.

Inside the New Mexico, many of the crew was trying to pay close attention to Crimea. But underwater for weeks at a time, the crew was cut off from news reports, save for what comes from an encrypted, very-low-frequency radio signal that penetrates the ice and delivers a news report a page and a half long.

Petty Officer Third Class Christopher Willis, who was drawn to undersea service by devouring tales of submarine prowess in the Cold War, was skeptical there would be a submarine shooting war soon. The real importance of America's undersea fleet is its intelligence gathering, he said.

"It is not about putting warheads on foreheads," he said. "It is about finding out things."

Adm. Greenert said that despite tensions with Russia, he didn't foresee a return to a military competition in the Arctic and hopes to restart cooperation.

But for at least a portion of the exercise, the simulated fight raged as Cmdr. Moore demonstrated his sub's ability. As the crew prepared to fire the simulated torpedo, Sen. King asked Cmdr. Moore if there were Russian subs in the Arctic. The commander said Russian forces were usually found closer to their bases on Russia's northern coast. But, he emphasized, a sub crew must always be listening. "We never assume we are out here alone," he said.


March 25, 2014

There's news all over the Internet on ICEX 2014 and the closing of Ice Camp Nautilus. Here's two really cool Navy photos of "our" sub released through AP.

In this March 22 photo provided by the U.S. Navy, sailors aboard USS New Mexico tie mooring lines after the submarine surfaced through the arctic ice at Ice Camp Nautilus, north of Alaska. Cracks in polar sea ice prompted the Navy to break down the camp that provided support for ICEX 2014. The commander of submarine forces ordered an early end to Ice Camp Nautilus because shifts in winds created instabilities in ice floes. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Joshua Davies)

Note USS New Mexico in background of this March 22 photo provided by the U.S. Navy, surfaced near Ice Camp Nautilus. U.S. NAVY, JOSHUA DAVIES — AP Photo

Some DVs made it. Among the weekend visitors to the camp was U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine. He landed Saturday in a single-engine airplane and toured the USS New Mexico, which had burst through polar ice. King stayed onboard the submarine for 20 hours, observing as it dove to 500 feet and broke back through the ice.

Greetings from Sea!

February 14, 2014

The crew of USS NEW MEXICO has just endured several weeks of family separation, at-sea evolutions in extremely bad weather, training new guys to meet exacting standards...yet in the message below the Commanding Officer, CDR Todd Moore, mentions how we back here in sunny New Mexico inspire pride in the crew. Most assuredly it is the other way around.

Greetings from sea! from CDR Todd Moore.

USS NEW MEXICO is on the surface once again, about to conclude a four-week at-sea period of great successes.

Our operations began on 21 January, when we cast off lines in a blinding snowstorm. Leaving our wives behind to shovel the driveways, we left Groton and headed out through Long Island Sound. Fortunately, the heavy snow, sub-freezing temperatures, and 30-knot winds kept all the little guys off the water and we drove free of interference out to our dive point.

That's not to say our surfaced transit was not without incident. As you know, we have had about 20% crew turnover since our last deployment and have a lot of green hands about. Many of them were not prepared for life in a steel tube rolling amidst 12-foot breaking seas. They are now! (At least most of them have got their sea legs.)

We dove as soon as we could and immediately began the training, drills, and evolutions that make a crew into a fighting team. Alternating between days of classroom training and days practicing fire, flooding, and various other calamities, we have steadily built the proficiency of Team NEW MEXICO. In the process, many Sailors have qualified new watch stations, we've had a few reenlistments, and I've had the pleasure to hand out several awards for outstanding service.

As I type this, we are headed back to port for a little R&R and to load the boat out again. The skills our crew has built up over the past four weeks will be put to the test very soon as USS NEW MEXICO heads out on a mini-deployment. While I can't go into the details of our upcoming operations, know that New Mexico will be well represented in some very high profile events.. The next time I write you, I'll have a lot to talk about!

Once again, thanks to you and the great USS NEW MEXICO Committee. Your hospitality, generosity, and interest continue to inspire tremendous and deserved pride amongst my crew.

Best regards,

CDR Todd Moore
Commanding Officer

First Grader Impressions of Submarine New Mexico

February 7, 2014

Not long ago, first graders at Comanche Elementary School in Albuquerque wrote brief letters, accompanied by artwork, to the crew of USS New Mexico. These six and seven-year olds of Renee Ortega's and Marvin Callahan's classes studied the submarine's website in class before composing their messages to the crew and before developing their priceless works of art. The kids now await answers from the individual members of the crew.

Renee Ortega is the daughter of Joyce Pullen, Navy League board member and former chief of staff for 6-term US Senator Pete Domenici who helped get the names Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and New Mexico for our three namesake fast-attack submarines.

Below is a sampling of one-liners and colorful drawings from the batch of 48 letters.

Thank you for protecting our country - Phineas
Thank you for saving the world - Sarit
Do you ixplor (explore) the oshin (ocean)? Thank you for being brave - Kylee
Why do you go on a submarine? - Myah
Is it scary or fun? - Alyssa
Is it scary down there? - Leland
Do you move slow or fast? - Cruz
Are any Navy Seals on board? - Ian


January 30, 2014

Craig E. Litty
Lieutenant Commander, USN
Executive Officer

Lieutenant Commander Litty, a native of House Springs, Missouri enlisted in the Navy in 1992 and served as a Hospital Corpsman until his selection to the Seaman to Admiral Program in 1999. He graduated from the University of North Florida in 2001 with a degree in Biology and was commissioned following completion of Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, FL.

Following nuclear power and submarine officer training, Lieutenant Commander Litty reported aboard USS SAN FRANCISCO (SSN 711) and served as the Chemistry and Radiological Controls Assistant and the Damage Control Assistant. His second sea tour was as the Engineer Officer, USS BUFFALO (SSN 715).

Ashore, Lieutenant Commander Litty served as the Aide to Commander, US Naval Forces Marianas in Agana, Guam and as the Engineer Officer of Submarine Squadron FIFTEEN.

In December 2011, Lieutenant Commander Litty reported to US Naval War College as a student where he graduated with distinction, completing a Masters Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies. He also served as the US representative in Class 82 of the Naval Staff College.

Following completion of the Submarine Command Course Lieutenant Commander Litty reported as Executive Officer aboard USS NEW MEXICO (SSN 779) in December 2012.

Lieutenant Commander Litty is a recipient of various personal and campaign awards including the Meritorious Service Medal (2 awards), the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (4 awards), the Army Commendation Medal, and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (3 awards).

Lieutenant Commander Litty is married to Sheila Litty of Cedar Hill, MO, and resides in Westerly, RI. His son Alex Litty attends the University of Missouri at Rolla, and his daughter Chelsea attends Michigan State University.

Click here for large version of photo.

Message from CDR Todd Moore, USS New Mexico SSN-779

December 17, 2013

Dear Navy League New Mexico Council 779 Committee,

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

Sorry to have been out of communication for a while, but we had a (relatively) emergent underway.

U.S. Fleet Forces ordered NEW MEXICO underway the Sunday after Thanksgiving to participate in the certification of the USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH Expeditionary Strike Group. While it was a little tough to pull ourselves from our families on a holiday weekend, the crew really came through. We got underway with typical NEW MEXICO flair and charged out to sea to show our stuff.

We also had a chance to embark riders from our parent squadron, Submarine Development Squadron TWELVE, who watched how we do business, were duly impressed, and certified us "Ready for Tasking". (That means we have recovered from the post-deployment crew turnover and are beginning the pre-deployment training period.) We also embarked the Commodore, CAPT Vern Parks, for a ride back up to Groton.

Hope your weather is warmer than ours!


USS New Mexico (SSN-779) Crew Visit

Photos By Rick Carver (Unless otherwise noted)
October 4-8, 2013

Click here to view Crew Visit photos.

Click here to view Northstar Elementary School Letters to SSN-779.

USS New Mexico (SSN-779) Change of Command

Photos By Rick Carver (Unless otherwise noted)
September 16, 2013

Click here to view Change of Command photos.

The Groton Safari: The USS New Mexico SSN-779 returns home from its first deployment

By Rick Carver
August 22, 2013

Click here to view photos.

Click here to view video.

The opportunity to be a part of the USS New Mexico homecoming was a privilege and an honor. Being able to photograph the event was even better. I must acknowledge the assistance from COMSUBRON 4, Public Affairs, the Family Readiness Group and the New Mexico Ombudsman. I must also give thanks to Commander George Perez and the crew of the USS New Mexico for allowing me to ride the boat into the sub base. I attended this homecoming representing the USS New Mexico Committee and the Navy League New Mexico Council.

Arrangements were made through COMSUBRON4 to ride one of the tugs out to meet the New Mexico at the mouth of the Thames River. Past the Nautilus Museum, beyond the Interstate 95 Bridge, beyond the Coast Guard Academy and past the Electric Boat Division we headed to open water. Through the mist and haze the shape of the USS New Mexico appeared. As we got closer I could see the flags of the United States, and New Mexico. Once we made our approach I transferred to the New Mexico leaving the tug, John Wronowski behind. I eventually made my way up to the bridge and was greeted by CDR Perez and CDR Todd Moore soon to be the next CO of 779.

As we passed under the I-95 Bridge we were greeted by a canon salute provided by a local submarine veteran’s group. Approaching the Groton Sub Base we were greeted by blasts from the horns of other submarines including the USS California and the USS Providence. Just outside the Pier 31 gate, some 300 family members waited patiently as the New Mexico finally docked. The crew in their dress whites lined the deck and waited for the all clear. The families once on the pier waited for the traditional “first kiss” followed by the rest of the crew. The initial hugs and kisses lasted about an hour or so, and one by one they began to vanish for some real reunion time.

The many photos are meant to support this short article celebrating the homecoming of the USS New Mexico from its first deployment. 779 performed its mission with great efficiency.

The USS New Mexico was commissioned in March 2010 at the Norfolk Navy Base in Virginia. She is a Virginia Class Nuclear Attack Submarine.

USS New Mexico on Her Way Home

by Dick Brown, Chairman, USS New Mexico SSN-779 Committee
July 25, 2013

USS NEW MEXICO will soon be returning from her maiden 6-month deployment, and her support team, the USS New Mexico Committee, has been working with various organizations in Groton, CT on homecoming preparations.

The committee's official homecoming representative will be Rick Carver, photographer extraordinaire.  The Navy is arranging for him to ride one of the tugs that will meet the boat and escort her up the Thames River to the Sub Base.  Besides the great photo opportunities, some of Rick's other missions include delivering nine Sailor of the Quarter plaques to the Chief of the Boat and meeting with the Commanding Officer, CDR George Perez, and the next CO, CDR Todd Moore (who is riding the boat back from her last port of call), about committee support for an upcoming Change of Command ceremony and reception in mid-September.

NEW MEXICO returning from sea in March 2012.  US Navy photo.

The committee has been working closely with the boat's Family Readiness Group on "goodie" bags for the boat's single sailors and miniature NM and US flags for the homecoming crowd on the pier.

Here is the latest update to Committee Chairman Dick Brown from the Commanding Officer:


Just received email #7.  Understand Rick will be the committee rep.  Let me know if there is any problem with getting Rick onto the tug.  There should not be as we will be disembarking several riders prior to mooring.  We will most definitely be flying the New Mexico State flag upon our arrival.  As you know, there is not much room on the pigstick but I'll fly the biggest flag I can.  Recognize that it will be flying next to the US flag.  Recommend Rick have a pretty good zoom lens for his camera so he can get a good shot.  I'll have the New Mexico flag flying on the outboard lanyard on the starboard side of the ship.

I'm certain if the Commodore has promised first class treatment, Rick will get it.  I expect no problems with getting Rick on the tug.  It's the logistics of getting him back to the pier in time that may be the sticky point.  The tug should moor at Subase ahead of us, then he'll have to scoot down the waterfront to whichever pier we are mooring at.  Please make sure LT Hawkins makes all arrangements to allow Rick to take photographs.  Generally it's not a problem on homecoming days.  The PAO should be able to address the necessary requirements to allow Rick to have his camera operational on the pier and tug. 

Of note, we will be hosting Commodore Holland's Change of Command for Submarine Squadron Four.  CAPT Jim Waters will be relieving.  Change of Command for the Commodore will be on 30 August and will be held onboard NEW MEXICO. 

We look forward to the plaques.  I've issued several quarterly awards to our deserving sailors and will have one more presentation to go prior to change of command.  Should be no problem on the photo op in the CO stateroom.  I'll take the pictures while CDR Moore is onboard prior to arrival in port just in case we don't have the time to coordinate while all parties are available.  I would like to have the photo powerpoint on display at the reception following change of command.  It will run continuously for about 1 to 1.5 hours or so.  I'd like a mix of boat and crew photos, preferably from CoC to CoC.  Thank you in advance for the goodie bags.  I'm certain the crew will appreciate them.  It's good to hear that we are continuing to build that relationship, committee to FRG. As for the mini-flags...that is going to make an impressive sight!  Make sure Rick gets a photo of that.

The ship and crew are doing great.  Morale continues to be excellent despite being over the five-month mark for deployment.  The crew is definitely looking forward to getting home but if duty calls, they won't hesitate to stay on the front line for as long as needed.  It has been extremely rewarding watching the crew hone their skills over the course of the deployment.  For over half the crew, this was their first deployment.  They have all enjoyed the liberty in foreign ports, particularly for the many sailors who had never left CONUS.  New Mexicans everywhere can be proud of their boat's performance.  I can assure you, it was and is superb.

Looking forward to seeing you soon.


CDR George Perez
Commanding Officer

This email from the CO not only shows how well the crew is doing, but how intimate the USS New Mexico Committee is with the submarine, the CO, the Squadron Commodore, and the Sub Group Admiral and his staff.  To quote committee vice chairman Damon Runyan, "I can't imagine a situation where a small committee 2,000 miles away from a sub's homeport has more day-to-day involvement than our committee has with CDR Perez; the new incoming CO, CDR Moore; the COB, Master Chief Fritzler; the Squadron and Group Public Affairs Officer, LT Hawkins; and the FRG.  Wow, this relationship has got to be unique and among the very best ever enjoyed by one single naval vessel."

NEW MEXICO on the Thames River.  US Navy photo.

The committee is most grateful for the cooperation of the Atlantic Submarine Fleet.  Unless Rick drops his camera overboard, there should be a splendid record of NEW MEXICO's return from overseas.  In fact, some of his photos will be integrated into the multi-image slide show that the skipper referenced.  As vice chairman Runyan says, "We are so very lucky to have USS NEW MEXICO as "our" submarine and I'm sure the crew is just as pleased to have our committee behind them every step of the way."


Royal Navy Submariner Earns Dolphins the American Way
Courtesy of
June 18, 2013

Thank you notes from 4th and 5th grade students at the Southwest Learning Center Charter School following a visit from LCDR Damon Runyan, USN(Ret)

June 6, 2013

Click to View More

Update from CDR George Perez

May 15, 2013

Friends and Families of NEW MEXICO,

As we near the middle of our first deployment, I take pleasure in reporting that your ship and crew have performed exceptionally since departing Groton, CT in February.  While I cannot go into the specifics, I can provide some general insights.  First and foremost has been the resiliency of the crew to keep NEW MEXICO on the front lines, often with heroic efforts on the deckplates.  As you might imagine, operating the most complex warship ever built by man in one of the harshest environments on the planet does not come without the occasional material issue.  We have had our share on NEW MEXICO but in every case, the men onboard have either worked tirelessly to correct the problem, or they have implemented mitigating measures to maintain our operational capability.  These efforts were instrumental in allowing NEW MEXICO to meet ALL operational tasking on time with NO reduction in capability.  It has truly been inspiring to watch your sailors in action doing what they have trained their entire careers for - operating this warship at sea.

Life at sea has been challenging, particularly for those not used to extended operations without the ability to communicate with friends and family.  This is probably equally if not more challenging for those at home.  As difficult as it is, all of the sailors onboard understand and appreciate the need for such a strict communications posture.  I can only encourage those of you at home to continue to reach out to your sailors as often as you possibly can using Sailormail and FAMILY GRAMS.  If you are not familiar with these tools, please contact the OMBUDSMAN for assistance.  I cannot stress enough how meaningful it is to your sailors when they receive communications from home.  Your efforts in this area do not go unappreciated even though it may be months before you receive a reply based solely on the nature of our operations.

In other areas, we've had our share of challenges.  As you can imagine, running out of crunchy peanut butter and bacon were crisis situations that had to be managed properly.  Timely intervention by some of our Chief Petty Officers was able to mitigate the impact of these near catastrophic events.  Qualifications have been superb as nearly every division onboard has made huge gains in this area.  The long periods at sea have provided ample opportunities to excel in this area for every sailor onboard.  

On the liberty front, as we enjoy our third port call, the crew has enjoyed the exposure to new cultures that can only be experienced with a port call in a foreign port.  Many of our sailors joined the Navy to see the world, and for the first time in many of their careers, they are getting that opportunity.  Their conduct ashore has been exemplary and I assure you that their role as ambassadors of the United States and the Navy is in very capable hands... 

As we complete this port call, our preparations for the second half of deployment are rapidly coming to a close.  The few material items requiring assistance from the home front have all been resolved.  Food stores have been topped off with the final stores load yesterday.  Critical spare parts have been received, communications with friends and family have been reestablished, and everything is going well.  We've transferred off our few augmentees and received a handful of new personnel.  Now, with everything in place, we will again take our position on the front line.

In closing, I can assure you that NEW MEXICO's reputation has only grown since our arrival in theater.  The performance of the ship and crew has been outstanding and I have every confidence that the legacy we have established will remain with NEW MEXICO for decades to come.  Of course, we could not do what we do without your continued support of the ship, the crew, and the families at home.  Thank you!

Warmest Regards

CDR George Perez
Commanding Officer

National Recognition for La Posta de Mesilla

by Dick Brown, Chairman, USS New Mexico SSN-779 Committee
Photos courtesy Rick Carver
May 8, 2013

USA Today has included La Posta de Mesilla, just days before Cinco de Mayo, on its list of the top ten Mexican restaurants in the nation. Housed in an 18th-century adobe building, La Posta is a historic landmark and is widely known for its enchiladas, carne adovada and other traditional New Mexican dishes.

USS New Mexico crewmembers join La Posta staff

"It's great for a local place to get recognized like that," said Capt. Tom Hutchinson, USN(Ret) who owns La Posta restaurant along with his wife Jerean.

Tom & Jerean Hutchinson at galley door onboard USS New Mexico

This national recognition is doubly important because the Hutchinson’s have adopted the galley aboard USS New Mexico. It is affectionately known to our undersea warriors as “La Posta Abajo del Mar” or “La Posta Beneath the Sea.” The submarine’s culinary specialists have been trained at La Posta in New Mexico cuisine, in fact, every other Tuesday onboard is Fajita Tuesday. When the culinary specialists complete their qualifications onboard, the Supply Officer gives them a La Posta hat as an award of sorts. The La Posta-submarine connection does not stop there as the restaurant gift shop offers all sorts of USS New Mexico memorabilia and there is a 2-foot model of the submarine permanently anchored in the restaurant lobby.

La Posta Abajo del Mar

Mexico celebrates Cinco de Mayo to commemorate a military victory, but in the USA, the day is a great excuse to head out for tacos, margaritas and other Mexican favorites. In order of closest proximity to Mexico, here is the top ten:

La Posta de Mesilla, NM
Café Poco Casa, Tucson, AZ
Las Casuelas Terraza, Palm Springs, CA
Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen, Houston, TX
Nachomama's Tex-Mex, St. Louis, MO
Panchero's Mexican Grill, Iowa City, IA
Alma Cocina, Atlanta, GA
Uncle Julio's Hacienda, Chicago, IL
Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, Washington, DC
Rosa Mexicano, New York, NY

Congratulations to La Posta de Mesilla, clearly one of the best Mexican restaurants in the nation, and as locals have always known, the place for true New Mexico cuisine.

Spring Edition of the USS New Mexico Family Times

April 15, 2013

Click Here to View the Full Publication

USS New Mexico (SSN-779) and USS New Mexico (BB-40) Featured in La Cronica de Nuevo Mexico

by Dick Brown, Chairman, USS New Mexico SSN-779 Committee
April 2, 2013

Click Here to View the Full Publication

A Glimpse into BB-40' Early Years

by Dick Brown, Chairman, USS New Mexico SSN-779 Committee
Photos Courtesy of the Harry Brewster Family

Battleship NEW MEXICO was commissioned into the fleet on May 20, 1918 as the Navy' first and only electric-drive battleship.  She was a standout among her direct-drive, coal-burning sisters.  At 32,000 tons, she was the largest battleship built to date and the first to have a clipper bow.

From the highs of the Roaring 20s to the lows of the Depression 30s, USS NEW MEXICO (BB-40) conducted routine patrols in both the Pacific and the Atlantic, "showing the flag" and conveying goodwill to various foreign nations.

In 1920, under the command of Capt. Arthur Willard, and with the ship' slogan "Let' Go!", NEW MEXICO visited West Coast ports and then cruised to Hawaii.  She spent some time in drydock at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington (see stern view above).  At the time, her foremast and mainmast were caged rather than solid structures.  After a visit in Seattle, she cruised south and entered San Francisco Bay.

NEW MEXICO again entered drydock, this time at Hunters Point Shipyard in southeastern San Francisco.  Here, ship' company repainted the hull.  And speaking of the hull, note the sliding rack protruding from the port torpedo tube.

Rickety Scaffolding Suspended along the 624-ft Length of the Ship
while Drydocked at Hunters Point Shipyard, San Francisco, California

BB-40 was built at a cost of $21 million.  She had nine oil-fired boilers, three per boiler compartment, delivering steam to two giant 16,000-hp turbine-generators (17 feet wide and 53 feet long) which powered four 12-foot high, 7,000-hp electric motors, one for each propeller shaft.  With such an efficient power-train, NEW MEXICO could reach a top speed of 21 knots. 

Main Switchboard and Control Station Showing
Levers for Reversing and Changing Speed

Auxiliary Steering by Handwheels, One of Several Emergency Steering Methods

One of Six 300 KW Auxiliary Turbo-generators for Lighting
and Non-propulsion Electrical Machinery

Crew Members Sitting on Propellers; Line of Armor Belt above Propellers

From Hunters Point, NEW MEXICO cruised down the California Coast to San Pedro Naval Base near Los Angeles from which she conducted fleet exercises.  She then headed west to Hawaii Territory where she made port calls at Honolulu and Hilo.  Crew members were able to visit Kilauea Crater on the Big Island and witness active lava flows at night.

Loading Ammunition from Barge for 14-inch Guns

USS NEW MEXICO Moored in Honolulu.

The clock tower on the right may have inspired development of the Aloha Tower in 1926.  That 184-foot tower has served as a guiding beacon and a welcome landmark to ships arriving in the port of Honolulu.

Street in Downtown Honolulu in 1920

NEW MEXICO became the first flagship of the Pacific Fleet and participated in exercises and competitions with other first-line battleships. 

Mail Call

Note the giant ‘E’ on NEW MEXICO' stack.  She won more battle ‘E’ awards than any other battleship; in fact, she won the coveted Battle ‘E’ Pennant for superior gunnery, engineering and battle efficiency in 1920-21 and again in 1927-28 and 1929-30. 

Inspection on Forecastle, Port Side

Early in 1921, USS NEW MEXICO made a 6,000-mile goodwill voyage to Chile.  Outbound from Panama Canal Zone, she was the lead ship among seven Pacific Fleet battleships, including NEW MEXICO' classmates, USS MISSISSIPPI (BB-41) and USS IDAHO (BB-42); older-class battleships USS WYOMING (BB-32), USS ARKANSAS (BB-33), USS NEW YORK (BB-34) and USS TEXAS (BB-35); plus 20 destroyers and six auxiliaries.  Collectively, this fleet exceeded 28,000 sailors!  NEW MEXICO was the flagship for Admiral Hugh Rodman, Commander-in-Chief of the newly designated U.S. Pacific Fleet.

It is interesting to note that at the same time, seven battleships of the Atlantic Fleet, including the flagship USS PENNSYLVANIA (BB-38), 19 destroyers and three auxiliaries transited the Panama Canal and cruised to Callao, Peru.  The other Atlantic battleships were USS DELAWARE (BB-28), USS NORTH DAKOTA (BB-29), USS UTAH (BB-31), USS NEVADA (BB-36), USS OKLAHOMA (BB-37) and USS ARIZONA (BB-39).  Incidentally, during his naval career, Rodman served as Commanding Officer of DELAWARE and NEW YORK.

The Good Ship NEW MEXICO Plunges South

NEW MEXICO crossed the equator at latitude 00-00, longitude 80-56W, just off the coast of Ecuador, on January 24, 1921, with 1,621 Landlubbers and 32 Sea-faring Shellbacks onboard.  Chief Boatswain' Mate Harry Brewster of "R" Division, known as "Kid Brewster", was quoted as saying "I will never forget it."  He was referring to King Neptune' initiation into the "Solemn Mysteries of the Orders of the Deep".

Chief Boatswain' Mate Harry C. Brewster on the Boat Deck


Admiral Rodman' Dining Room during Chile Cruise
(Normally Captain Willard' Dining Room) with Mahogany Furnishings 

Officer' Wardroom

Crew' Lounge for Reading, Writing & Reception

Ship' Galley

All-Electric Bake Shop

Ship' Laundry

Inspections Starboard Aft, Coal-burning Battleships follow BB-40

Older class battleships, as in this photo, had port and starboard high-gun platforms, appearing from a distance as flying bridges.

Swabbing the Deck


Navigating Bridge

Housed on the navigating bridge are two engine order telegraphs, chart table, and helmsman station (in front of chart table) for steering by the use of a transmitting lever.

Crew Members on Forecastle

Note one of the ship' bells hanging from the searchlight platform on the foremast above the conning tower.

36-inch Searchlight on Foremast

Chiefs and Officers including Capt. Arthur Willard, Commanding
Officer, and Admiral Hugh Rodman, Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet

Older Class Battleships in Background; Sailors in Formation, Port Side Aft

Mess Cook Inspection, Port Side Aft

NEW MEXICO sailors visited the port city of Valparaiso, Chile (where the new President of Chile visited the ship) as well as the capital city of Santiago.  The crew also visited the nearby beach town of Vina del Mar.

Over 500 BB-40 Sailors on Deck, in Masts, on Guns, on Boat
Cranes and Hanging in Radio Antenna Support Structures

USS NEW MEXICO (BB-40) returned to Pearl Harbor on March 6, 1921, after her voyage to Chile. 

USS NEW MEXICO (BB-40) and USS S-7 (SS-112)

While anchored at Pearl Harbor, the submarine USS S-7 glided by, offering a rare camera view of BB-40 with one of our earliest S-boats.  This photo (not part of the Brewster collection) is somewhat foreboding, because nine decades later, there is submarine USS NEW MEXICO (SSN-779).

S-7 was commissioned on July 1st, 1920 so she and BB-40 were of the same vintage.  The submarine was less than a year old and the battleship was just a few years older when the photograph was taken.

Capt. Arthur Lee Willard, Commanding Officer,
USS NEW MEXICO, May 10, 1919 – May 31, 1921
Arthur Willard graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1891.  During the Spanish-American War, he was the first serviceman to raise the American flag on Cuban soil.  He served aboard USS MAINE (BB-10) when she was part of the Great White Fleet' around-the-world journey.  Holding the rank of Captain, Willard was brought in as the new commandant of the Washington Navy Yard where he promptly put things in order.  He supervised the preparation of plans and specifications for placing surplus 16-inch naval guns on railcars for land use on the western front in France in the fall of 1918.  For his invaluable service during WWI, Willard was awarded the Navy Cross by President Wilson.  He then returned to sea duty as the Commanding Officer of USS NEW MEXICO.  Later, attaining 3-star rank, he led a series of fleet exercises that validated the increasing importance of aircraft carriers and the need to launch attacks from beyond the range of battleship guns.  From 1932 until his death in 1935, he commanded the Fifth Naval District.  Willard Park, located at Washington Navy Yard, is named in honor of Vice Admiral Arthur Willard.


by Dick Brown, Chairman, USS New Mexico SSN-779 Committee
U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/EXW) Jason J. Perry
February 13, 2013

Friends and family wave to USS New Mexico as she transits the Thames River and heads out on her maiden deployment, taking her turn on the front line.

USS New Mexico Calls on New Mexico Piñon Coffee Company

by Dick Brown, Chairman, USS New Mexico SSN-779 Committee
February 8, 2013

Last July and again last month, the New Mexico Piñon Coffee Company (NMPC) donated some of their award-winning coffee to the crew of USS New Mexico, altogether about 70 pounds! During their recent visit to the state, Commanding Officer George Perez and Chief of the Boat Steve Fritzler wanted to personally thank the owners and staff for their generous contributions.

The visit included a tour of the plant by owners Cindy and Frank Bassett, and son Allen, who just celebrated their 4th anniversary of owning the company. Cindy described how coffee beans and piñon nuts are blended, roasted, packaged and distributed across the state and far beyond. Every year they roast nearly one million pounds of the finest high-altitude Arabica coffee available. As for the nuts from New Mexico’s official state tree, they recently acquired 2,000 pounds of raw piñon from the Gallup area.

Front, L to R: NMPC owners Allen Bassett, Frank Bassett, Cindy Bassett, CDR George Perez, and Committee Chairman Dick Brown. Rear, L to R are NMPC General Manager Kris Hansen and NMPC Production Manager Bryan Reams. Cindy is holding a laser-etched submarine memento presented by the CO as a token of the crew’s appreciation.

With the CO scheduled to visit Governor Susana Martinez the day following the NMPC tour, Cindy donated a bag of the Governor’s favorite for special delivery. It should be noted that NMPC is a 3-time winner of the "National Roasting Award", 2-time winner of the "Best Coffee in the West" - Travel West Magazine, and, among other honors, has been the "Best Selling Coffee" at the New Mexico State Fair for seven years.

The Bassett’s believe that each cup of their coffee will bring a touch of the Land of Enchantment to the crew while deployed overseas and in fact they plan to make regular contributions to the boat. As they say at NMPC, great coffee is a matter of a piñon!


February 7, 2013
Contact: Dick Brown, Chairman, USS New Mexico SSN-779 Committee

The video above was taken by KOAT TV, Albuquerque, January 30, 2013, at North Star Elementary. CDR George Perez and ETCM(SS) Steven Fritzler of the USS NEW MEXICO SSN-779 deliver letters from the crew to the school children.

Dick Brown and his 779 Committee Vice Chairman, retired LCDR Damon Runyan, have spearheaded this collaboration opportunity with the USS NEW MEXICO SSN-779 and New Mexico including this letter-writing initiative with North Star Elementary School in Albuquerque. Forty-five students attending the North Star Elementary School sent letters to the crew of the Virginia-class submarine in 2012, to which USS NEW MEXICO Sailors have responded. "We received 45 letters back from individual crew members addressed to the kids," said Brown. "What a wonderful opportunity for a pen-pal exchange."

Copies of the letters submitted by the students of North Star Elementary School can be viewed online at this link:

USS New Mexico CO and Chief of the Boat Visit Namesake State

By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, Commander
Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs,
Photos courtesy of Rick Carver January 31, 2013

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Jan. 30, 2013) Cmdr. George Perez, commanding officer, USS New Mexico and his chief of the boat, Master Chief Electronics Technician (SS) Steven Fritzler pose with New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez in her cabinet room

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (NNS) -- USS New Mexico (SSN 779) commanding officer and chief of the boat visited the Virginia-class attack submarine's namesake state, Jan. 29-31, in honor of the ship's commissioning nearly three years ago.

Cmdr. George Perez, commanding officer, USS New Mexico and his chief of the boat, Master Chief Electronics Technician (SS) Steven Fritzler met New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R-NM), members of the USS New Mexico Committee and the New Mexico Navy League members.

"As USS New Mexico prepares to depart on her maiden deployment, it is important for us to personally convey to our namesake state and the New Mexico Committee just how much the crew appreciates their support," said Perez.

Dick Brown, chairman, USS New Mexico Committee coordinated the visit as a way to continue forging the strong bonds between the state and their namesake submarine.

"Scheduling a meeting between our governor while the State Legislature is in session and the commanding officer of a submarine is quite a challenge," said Brown. "But it's all part of our committee's work in helping to maintain strong ties between the submarine and its namesake state."

Brown and his committee vice chairman, retired Lt. Cmdr. Damon Runyan, have been spearheading other collaboration opportunities with the boat and the state to include a letter-writing initiative between an Albuquerque-based elementary school. Forty-five students attending the North Star Elementary School sent letters to the crew of the Virginia-class submarine in 2012, to which Sailors have since responded.

"We just received 45 letters back from individual crew members addressed to the kids," said Brown. "What a wonderful opportunity for a pen-pal exchange."

Copies of the letters submitted by the students of North Star Elementary School are also viewable online at the committee's website:

New Mexico was commissioned March 27, 2010 and was the sixth Virginia-class submarine to be commissioned. There are currently 127 officers and enlisted Sailors assigned to New Mexico.

For more news from Commander Submarine Group 2, visit

Happy New Year Message from CDR George Perez

January 8, 2013

NEW MEXICO Family and Friends!

Happy New Year!  I hope all of you had a wonderful and joyous holiday season. I can assure all of you that your NEW MEXICO sailors enjoyed their well-earned vacation over the holiday period.  After a grueling three-month stretch that saw NEW MEXICO complete the second of two Pre-Overseas Movement maintenance availabilities, complete Advanced Pre-deployment Training, and successfully complete an engineering evaluation, the ship and crew needed a period of rest and relaxation before entering the final phases of pre-deployment.  The amount of activity onboard the ship over the last three months has been incredible to say the least.  Multiple agencies, maintenance organizations, and support groups have had a near 24/7 presence onboard getting the ship ready for her inaugural deployment.  Through it all, the crew's performance has been superb.

As I reflect on what has been an outstanding first full year of operations for NEW MEXICO, 2012 was a year to be remembered.  Achieving surge deployment status five months early, strong performances in two major engineering assessments, a strong Supply Management Inspection, a strong performance in our Tactical Readiness Evaluation, strong performances in our 3-M and Quality Assurance assessments, Submarine Command Course Operations, serving as the host platform for the OMSUBLANT Change of Command, outstanding performance in shallow water exercises where we out hit our opposition at a 2-1 rate, and our unparalleled performance against HMS ASTUTE in the US-UK Fellowship 12 Exercise are all testaments to how well the ship and crew have performed.  As I often tell the crew, submarines that perform well across the spectrum of submarine operations are performing at an excellent level.  I am happy to tell you that that holds true for your sailors onboard this ship.  So strong was the ship's performance in 2012, that NEW MEXICO was recognized by COMSUBRON FOUR for outstanding performance in Personnel Readiness and Navigation, earning top honors in Squadron FOUR in these categories.

In addition to the crew's overall strong performance, I'd like to take a moment to recognize five of our sailors for absolutely outstanding individual performance.  For 2012, EM1(SS) Gerhart was selected as NEW MEXICO's Sailor of the Year, MM1(SS) Millsaps was selected as NEW MEXICO's Junior Sailor of the Year, FT3(SS) Watts was selected as NEW MEXICO's Bluejacket of the Year, and LT Michael Rose was selected as NEW MEXICO's Junior Officer of the Year.  On a separate front, HMC(SS/SW/AW) Conner was formally recognized by COMSUBLANT as the Submarine Force's ndependent Duty Corpsman of the Year.  Congratulations to each of these fine warriors for a job well-done.  Each of them is truly an inspiration!

As we turn our sights to 2013, NEW MEXICO will take her place on the front lines during her first overseas deployment.  I couldn't be more proud of what this ship and crew have accomplished and I have every confidence that they will continue to impress each and every one of you in the months ahead.  As always, we could not perform at the level we are without your continued support.  Thank you.

Warmest Regards,

CDR George Perez
Commanding Officer


December 24, 2012

Click on the link below to see the featured story on KRQE TV News 13, December 24, 2012. We wish however, to make the following correction to this interview.

Contrary to this report, past attempts to secure state funding for public outreach have not died in committee. They in fact have made it through all New Mexico Legislative Committees and have passed the New Mexico House and Senate. The problem has been at the budget bill level where the line-item request was accidentally dropped or, in the case of last year, vetoed. The Navy League New Mexico Council's USS New Mexico Committee wishes to point out that the 2006 and 2008 New Mexico State Legislatures approved $100,000 and $200,000, respectively. These funds were used for Commissioning events and for raising public awareness.

An Incredible BB-40 Story – Seven Decades in the Making

This story is based on information provided by Major Josh Vance, a KC-130 pilot with the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Quantico, VA, and Dan Farnham, a Navy veteran living and working on Kwajalein, Republic of Marshall Islands.

The Marshall Islands extend over 600 miles of the South Pacific and include Kwajalein Atoll, one of the world's largest coral reefs enclosing a lagoon.  USS New Mexico (BB-40), having left Pearl Harbor on January 22, 1944, arrived off Kwajalein Atoll for the pre-invasion battering of the Japanese scheduled to start on January 31st.  This was part of Operation Flintlock, with the 4th Marine Division in the north at Roi-Namur and the 7th Army Infantry Division in the south at Kwajalein.  USS Idaho (BB-42) and USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) were also part of Operation Flintlock.  While shelling Ebeye and Kwajalein, New Mexico suffered her first casualty of the war.

BB-40 Kingfisher float plane

BB-40 Naval Aviation Division 1943-1944

Two Kingfisher spotter float planes from New Mexico were sent buzzing over embattled Kwajalein, their skilled pilots and radiomen relaying vital topographical information and target locations to the ship's gunners.  At 1522, an OS2N-1 Kingfisher piloted by LTjg Forney O. Fuqua, USNR, with Radioman Second Class Harrison D. Miller in the rear cockpit, was struck by enemy anti-aircraft fire from Ebeye.  Fuqua radioed his ship:  "Cockpit full of gasoline fumes . . . hit very badly . . . am making emergency landing . . ." Mortally wounded, Fuqua instructed Miller to bail out.  Instead, Miller took over the controls and attempted to bring the crippled plane down to the surface of Kwajalein's giant lagoon.  With no prior flying experience, no instruments and only an emergency control stick, Miller succeeded in making a water landing.

Click Here to Read the Full Story

Letters to the Crew of the USS NEW MEXICO (SSN-779) from North Star Elementary 4th Graders

Class teachers are Ms. Hague and Ms. Reiff.
(Notice from webmaster: Get Kleenex before reading!)


Click Here to Read More

Recent Activities Surrounding USS New Mexico

By Dick Brown, Chairman, USS New Mexico SSN-779 Committee

As the keynote speaker at the New Mexico Council’s July 21, 2012 fundraiser, Dr. Harrison Schmitt presenting a fascinating account of his time on the moon. He and Gene Cernan of Apollo 17 were the last two men to walk on the moon.
Photo by Rick Carver.

Commander, Fleet Cyber Command and Commander 10th Fleet Vice Adm. Michael Rogers boards USS New Mexico on July 26, 2012 during a visit to Navy Information Operations Detachment at SUBASE New London.
US Navy Photo

With a capacity crowd in attendance, CDR George Perez, Jr., commanding officer, USS New Mexico and 15 members of the crew attended the Yankees vs. Texas Rangers game at Yankee Stadium on August 15, 2012. They were recognized on the team's Jumbotron in the middle of the third and fifth innings.
Photo by the boat’s EMC (a Red Sox fan).

Master Chief Bill Lamb, former New Mexico EDMC (Bull Nuke), retired from the Navy on September 19, 2012. He had the honor of having several New Mexico shipmates at his retirement ceremony, including Capt. Rob Dain (former CO779) as his presiding officer to send him ashore.

Also on hand was CDR Stan Stewart (former XO779), who did a great job of reading Old Glory during Bill’s Passing the Flag ceremony, plus ETC Jeff Keep, MMC Dustin Clark and ETCS Dennis Mitchell.

Navy Leaguer Phelps White of Roswell, on right, and Phelps Anderson help celebrate New Mexico’s Centennial during a "Block Party" at the Roswell Museum & Art Center with a model of USS New Mexico. On October 4, 2012, they "launched" USS New Mexico and SS Roswell Victory ship at a Rotary Club meeting in celebration of the Navy's 237th birthday, sang Anchors Away, and RADM/Senator Bill Payne gave a stirring speech about the submarine and national defense.

The USS New Mexico with submarine posters and brochures were then put on display at the Historical Center for Southeast New Mexico, and soon the boat will be moored in a bank lobby, before "cruising" down the Pecos River to Carlsbad.

Leo Davis and Dick Brown at WSMR Headquarters with a model of battleship New Mexico, built by Brony Szymber in 1933-1935. Photo by FTCS Ray Watson, WSMR Naval Detachment

Leo Davis, combat submarine veteran, at podium describing WWII torpedo problems and solutions, during WSMR’s Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Navy birthday celebration on October 12, 2012.
Photo by Jose Salazar, WSMR

L to R, Millie Woods, president of Military Appreciation Weekend Center in Ruidoso; Dick Brown, Leo Davis and RDML Paul Arthur of Las Cruces.
Photo by Jose Salazar, WSMR

Traditional cake-cutting by the oldest sailor, Leo Davis, and the youngest sailor, Petty Officer Jenna Watts.
Photo by Jose Salazar, WSMR

USS New Mexico Sailor Receives IDC Of The Year Award

By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, Commander, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs
From on Sat 11/10/12

Chief Hospital Corpsman (SS) Retroyreo Conner

2012 Submarine IDC of the Year Award

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- An Independent Duty Corpsman (IDC) aboard the Virginia-class attack submarine USS New Mexico (SSN 779) was recognized as the Submarine Independent Duty Corpsman of the Year for 2012 at a command awards ceremony in Groton.

Chief Hospital Corpsman (SS) Retroyreo Conner was named IDC of the year for 2012 earlier this year, but was later presented the award in October due to the submarine's underway schedule.

"It was a total surprise I can honestly say that," said Conner. "I have a great crew and I can say that I received this recognition based on their stellar performance and support of me."

The IDC of the year award is also presented to a surface and shore IDC annually. Last year, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (SS) Aaron P. McKnight, who was assigned to USS Toledo (SSN 769), was the recipient of the award, which is presented annually to enlisted medical professionals who have significantly contributed to the combat readiness and overall health of Sailors aboard submarines.

"Chief Conner's dedication to the health and well-being of the New Mexico crew, his constant drive to help those around him achieve success, and his positive, infectious attitude makes him an inspiration to every Sailor onboard. He is, without a doubt, one of the finest Sailors I have ever had the privilege of serving with in my 26-year career," said Cmdr. George Perez, commanding officer, USS New Mexico.

Conner, who has served in the Navy for 14 years, said his tour aboard New Mexico marked his first IDC tour and first submarine. During his three-year tour Conner said one of his highlights was learning and qualifying to pilot the submarine.

"Serving as the IDC for the past three years has been career enhancing for me personally because you are truly an independent duty corpsman when the submarine is at sea," said Conner. "You are the sole provider for your crew and assisting with their medical needs allows me to keep sharp on my medical knowledge mainly because every medical case isn't always the same."

In addition to receiving IDC of the Year, Conner was also pinned chief petty officer in September.

"This award and my performance aboard USS New Mexico definitely contributed to [my] pinning on chief petty officer this year," said Conner.

In order to qualify as an independent duty corpsman, IDCs attend 18-months of training at both Naval Undersea Medical Institute and Naval Submarine School. To qualify as an IDC, Conner took a variety of training at NUMI consisting of clinical patient care, laboratory, pharmacy and general preventive medicine.

USS New Mexico Sailors Participate In Namesake Visit

By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, Commander, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs
From on Sat 10/20/12

USS New Mexico submariners, L to R, Supply Officer LTjg Justin Will; Engineering Officer LCDR Chris Blais; Chief of the Boat ETCM(SS) Steve Fritzler; and Fire Control Division Leader FTC(SS) Frank Saviano. In the hand of LCDR Blais is a piece of steel that broke off USS New Mexico (BB-40) when a Japanese suicide plane slammed into her superstructure.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (NNS) -- Four USS New Mexico (SSN 779) Sailors are participating in a three-day namesake state visit to New Mexico, Oct. 19-21.

Chief of the Boat, Master Chief Electronics Technician (SS) Steven Fritzler, Lt. Cmdr. Chris Blais, Lt. j.g. Justin Will, and Chief Fire Control Technician (SS) Frank Saviano will meet with the Navy League, USS New Mexico Committee, submarine veterans, and attend the 237th Navy Birthday Ball in Albuquerque.

"The contingent of USS New Mexico Sailors are looking forward to this namesake state visit and appreciate the committee's continued support of our submarine," said Blais, USS New Mexico's engineer officer. "We look forward to further expanding that relationship during the lifetime of our submarine."

Blais, one of the featured speakers at the Navy Ball in Albuquerque, will provide an update on the Virginia-class attack submarine.

"This year our Navy celebrates its 237th birthday, and attending the Navy Ball in our namesake state is a wonderful way to reflect on our Navy's rich history," said Blais.

Submarine veterans, Navy League members and other supporters of the Navy will attend the ball in Albuquerque. Also included in that contingent are cadets from the largest organization of the sea cadets in the nation.

"Every student at the Bataan Military Academy is a sea cadet and about half of the student body is coming to our ball," said Dick Brown, chairman, USS New Mexico Committee, which is part of the Navy League New Mexico Council. "This is a great opportunity for these sea cadets, many who will probably serve in the military one day, to connect with their active duty counterparts."

Brown, who is coordinating the Sailors' three-day visit to his state reflected on meeting members of the New Mexico crew.

"It's the first visit the crew has been able to make this year," said Brown. "We are anxious to see them and meet their new chief of the boat, who we haven't met yet."

New Mexico was commissioned March 27, 2010, and was the sixth Virginia-class submarine to be commissioned.

The ship is named in recognition of the people of the "Land of Enchantment." The battleship New Mexico (BB 40), 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. BB 40 acted as the flagship for the Pacific Fleet during the 1920s. She was present at the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay.

Submariners discuss deep history behind state's vessels

October 17, 2012
by Dianne Stallings
Reposted from Ruidoso News

Leo Davis, 90, discusses torpedo problems during World War II with local author and rancher Bob Johnson during a reception at Bill Pippin Real Estate in Ruidoso. As the oldest sailor at the Navy birthday ceremony Friday at White Sands Missile Range, Davis cut a cake with the youngest sailor, one of 24 desert sailors stationed at the range. (Dianne Stallings/Ruidoso News)

New Mexico isn't near the ocean, but the state boasts three nuclear submarines as namesakes.

"Not many states can claim that," said Dick Brown, chairman of the USS New Mexico (SSN-779) Committee of the New Mexico Council of the Navy League of the United States. "The USS Albuquerque is based in San DiegoCalif., the USS Santa Fe at Pearl HarborHawaii, and the USS New Mexico at GrotonConnecticut."

Brown, a veteran of submarine duty during the Cold War, and Leo Davis, 90, who served on submarines conducting seven war patrols during World War II, were guests Friday at WhiteSandsMissileRange for a celebration of the Navy's 237th birthday. Thursday, they stopped at Bill Pippin Real Estate in Ruidoso with Millie Woods of Military Appreciation Week for a reception. They stayed overnight at the home of author and rancher Bob Johnson.

"It's tradition that any Navy group anywhere try to celebrate the annual birthday," Brown said of the founding of the Navy on Oct. 13, 1775. "We have a Naval detachment of about 24 at White Sands. They called themselves desert sailors. Leo and I were the honored guests speakers arranged by Millie. It was very special ceremony at the range headquarters. The youngest and the oldest traditionally cut the cake and Leo cut the cake at White Sands.

"I talked about the USS New Mexico and he spoke about how the torpedoes didn't work quite right at the beginning of WW2, but finally were fixed. I think the young sailors were interested."

Brown said as a former submarine sailor who served six years in the 1960s, he instigated the formation of the USS New Mexico (SSN-779) Committee and lobbied for a new nuclear sub to be named after New Mexico.

"The Navy began naming submarines after states and it had been six decades since New Mexicowas honored," he said. "I formed the committee within the New Mexico Council of the Navy League and began lobbying the Secretary of the Navy, who makes the decisions."

The first warship named after New Mexico was a battleship, the USS New Mexico BB-40. The new submarine is not only a great honor for the Land of Enchantment, but a salute to those who served aboard BB-40 and a tribute to all New Mexicans, who have served or are serving in the Armed Forces, Brown said. The ship's crest was designed by Emilee Sena, a high school senior inAlbuquerque at the time.

The new submarine is designed to conduct early strike warfare from close proximity, to deploy and retrieve special operation forces, to excel in destroying an adversary's operations at sea, to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, and to fight the global war on terror, according to literature about the craft. She is armed with Mark 48 torpedoes and vertically launched Tomahawk cruise missiles.


After successful sea trials, the USS New Mexico was delivered to the Navy on December 29, 2009, four months ahead of Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding contract schedule. Several months of shakedown operations were conducted in the Caribbean, proving that she was combat-ready. OnMarch 27, 2010, she was commissioned into the fleet during a special ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk. The commissioning ceremony included 92-year-old BB-40 veteran Chief Warrant Officer George Smith, who helped set the first watch by passing the traditional long-glass to the officer of the watch, symbolically bridging the gap between the end of the last watch on the battleship and the first watch on the submarine.

On June 1, 2010, the USS New Mexico arrived at her first homeport, Submarine Base New London, the submarine capital of the world. Her vital statistics include that she is 377 feet long, represents 7,800 tons of displacement, her submerged speed is 25 knots or 28.7695 miles per hour, she's fueled for life and has a diving depth of more than 800 feet. The most technologically advanced submarine in the world, she carries the motto "Defendemos Nuestra Tierra," which means "We Defend Our Land." The USS New Mexico is the Navy's sixth Virginia-class, fast attack nuclear submarine.

Brown explained just securing the name didn't end the committee's involvement. Members arrange crew visits to the state, provides Sailor of the Quarter plaques to the boat, contribute to the crew's onboard living quarters and support other special activities that recognize sailors' accomplishments and raise awareness of the "awesome" submarine.

The committee, in association with the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, provides long-term support for the submarine. Through their combined efforts, the sub's interior decor has a distinctive New Mexico flair - Southwest-style bunk curtains, manufactured in Las Cruces, and the crew's mess is dubbed La Posta Abajo del Mar, or La Posta Beneath the Sea after a well-known La Posta de Mesilla restaurant, according to information provided by Brown.


October 15, 2012


CDR George Perez
Commanding Officer

NEW MEXICO Families, Friends and Supporters,

It has been five months since my last update. As always, time is flying by onboard as the ship and crew are ramping up for the ship's inaugural deployment in 2013. My last update finished with NEW MEXICO's return to homeport in mid-May following Submarine Command Course operations. After a reload of 15 exercise torpedoes, NEW MEXICO returned to sea for a head-to-head exercise with our sister ship, USS MISSOURI (SSN 780). While the competition was fierce and the environment challenging, when the dust settled NEW MEXICO came out on top. We finished the month of June with a Tiger Cruise, where 20 friends and family members were invited to embark for a three-day cruise. Everyone had a wonderful time and each of our distinguished guests was able to complete their qualifications and earn the title of Honorary Submariner. Following completion of the Tiger Cruise, the ship started the first of two Pre-Overseas Movement availability maintenance periods. The availability was demanding to say the least but the crew fought through the challenges which included some ninth-hour repairs that might have derailed a less motivated crew. We were able to hold the schedule though and get underway on time to preserve NEW MEXICO's first port visit to Annapolis, MD over Labor Day weekend. The crew thoroughly enjoyed the four days in Annapolis while showing off the ship to over 800 visitors made up of a combination of civilians and midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy. The crew also built experience in extended operations at anchor, something submariners rarely get to do. Needless to say, the ship and crew performed flawlessly during the four days at anchor.

After weighing anchor in Annapolis, NEW MEXICO conducted a surface transit to Norfolk, VA, where we served as host platform for the COMSUBLANT Change of Command ceremony. On 7 September, VADM Richardson was properly relieved by VADM Connor with ADM Harvey, Commander, Fleet Forces Command, presiding. The crew did a fantastic job at preparing the ship, ensuring she looked her best for this prestigious event. We returned to sea the next day for some discretionary training and operated in and out of homeport over the rest of the month as we focused on honing our tactical skills after an extensive period in port over the previous two months. NEW MEXICO returned to Groton in early October and is now in the middle of our second Pre-Overseas Movement availability.

As always, the crew continues to perform well in all areas, most recently earning strong performances in Quality Assurance and 3-M assessments. Not to be outdone, the ship's galley, La Posta de Mesilla Abajo del Mar, has entered into the competition for the Captain Edward F. Ney Memorial Award, the most prestigious food service award in the Navy. We hope to learn the results in the very near future. Other highlights included the promotion of five Chief Petty Officers to Senior Chief - the most of any submarine on the Groton waterfront - as well as the selection of four new Chief Petty Officers: HMC Conner, LSC Simpson, ETC Mohney, and MMC Chayim. Each of these superb NEW MEXICO warriors was most deserving of their promotion to Chief Petty Officer. During this period we bid farewell to ETCM Murphy, Chief of the Boat, as he concluded an extremely rewarding three-year tour transitioning NEW MEXICO from a shipyard asset to a frontline submarine. His relief, ETCM Fritzler, has not missed a beat and is leading the charge as we prepare for deployment. Looking ahead, we have a busy fourth quarter as we wrap up deployment preparations and certifications. I have every confidence the crew will continue to perform at a level which will make each and every one of you proud. Again, we could not do what we do as well as we do without your support every day. For that, I thank you.

As I reflect on the last two years, I can only say that it has been an honor and a privilege to have led each and every member of this great crew. They continue to rise to any challenge and to answer any call on a daily basis. Each of them is truly a great American.

Warmest Regards,
CDR George Perez
Commanding Officer

USS NEW MEXICO SSN-779 and New Mexico Statehood

September 19, 2012
By Dick Brown, Chairman, USS New Mexico SSN-779 Committee

Throughout the New Mexico Statehood Centennial year, the Navy League New Mexico Council's USS New Mexico Committee has been involving our undersea warriors in celebrating our state's 100th birthday. 

Early this summer, the committee purchased 140 New Mexico Centennial T-shirts from Zia Graphics and shipped them to the crew.  These golden yellow T-shirts, which become part of the crew's PT outfit, show the Palace of the Governors and the State Seal with the words "Land of Enchantment – NEW MEXICO – 1912-2012" – Celebrating 100 years" on the front and in red letters on the back "USS NEW MEXICO SSN 779".


Crew of our state namesake submarine in their Centennial T-shirts


In early January, in a video posted on YouTube, the crew broadcast the following birthday message:  "From the officers and crew of the most powerful warship in the Navy, Happy Birthday, New Mexico!" 


Twelve of USS NEW MEXICO's Chief Petty Officers help celebrate a century of statehood.
Front Bottom (Left to Right) MMC Caswell, ITSC Dora, CSC Sturtz, MMC Mullins
Back (Left to Right) MMCM Arroyo, MMCS Kuczirka, MMCS Vivian in front of ETC Fisher, STSC Hairston, COB (MMCM Fritzler), MMC Medert, ETC Edwards


The committee supplied the submarine with a special centennial license plate, SSN*779, with the sub's hull designation and number.  And true to the state having only rear license plates, the special plate is displayed at the aft end of the sail when in port.  The committee's first thought was to ask the Navy to permanently mount the plate on the rudder which breaks the surface about 20 feet aft of the superstructure but it would probably not hold up to long saltwater exposure when the submarine is submerged.


New Mexico Centennial license plate on the sail


The committee worked with the U.S. Postal Service to develop a special USS NEW MEXICO first day cover to help mark 100 years of statehood.  This "Submarine Mail" was cancelled in Santa Fe on January 6, 2012, has been to sea aboard the submarine, and has been signed by the commanding officer, CDR George Perez, certifying that it has been to test depth. 


Special cachet cover carried beneath the Atlantic aboard the submarine


These special collectibles are for sale; one can place an order by contacting the committee through this website.

USS NEW MEXICO Hosts Sub Force Change of Command

September 7, 2012
by Dick Brown, Chairman, USS New Mexico SSN-779 Committee

For the COMSUBFOR Change of Command ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk on September 7, 2012, USS NEW MEXICO (SSN-779) was moored at Pier 12 to serve as the host platform.  A special onboard stage was mounted just aft of her sail where the brow connected to her starboard side.  It displayed the Sub Force command crest against a blue background and patriotic bunting decorated the platform and brow.  The crowd of 800, including ship's company, was sheltered under a white tent on the pier.  According to COMSUBLANT Deputy PAO Kevin Copeland, "NEW MEXICO rocked!"

NEW MEXICO as the platform for COMSUBFOR Change of Command ceremony

Outgoing CSF VADM John Richardson (left),
incoming CSF VADM Mike Connor (right)

When VADM John Richardson relieved VADM Jay Donnelly in November 2010, the Los Angeles-class USS MONTPELIER (SSN-765) served as the host platform.  But VADM Richardson asked for a Virginia-class to serve as the platform when he turned over command of U.S. Naval Submarine Forces to VADM Mike Connor.  According to NEW MEXICO's Commanding Officer, CDR George Perez, NEW MEXICO was selected for a myriad of reasons.  One obvious reason was that NEW MEXICO was already in the neighborhood, having just spent the Labor Day weekend at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.  NEW MEXICO is one of nine Virginia-class submarines in service; six more are under construction.

ADM John Harvey, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, is piped aboard NEW MEXICO

Presiding over the ceremony was ADM John Harvey, U.S. Fleet Forces Command.  As he addressed the crowd, he referred to our 19,000-strong Submarine Force as a national treasure, vital to our Navy and our Nation.  Harvey awarded Richardson the Distinguished Service Medal for meritorious service.  A week later, ADM Harvey was relieved by ADM William Gortney.  Harvey is retiring after 39 years of naval service, including three years as Commander of Fleet Forces.

Richardson receives the Distinguished Service Medal; 
At left is VADM Tim Giardina, Deputy Commander, U.S. Strategic Command

VADM Connor at the podium

As top sub commander, Connor will also directly oversee all Atlantic
subs and will head up NATO's Allied Submarine Command.

VADM Richardson at the podium

During his tour of duty, Richardson integrated the first women officers into our submarine force and he decentralized authority in order to give sub skippers more flexibility.  Later this year Richardson will be promoted to 4-star and will relieve ADM Kirk Donald as the new Director of Naval Reactors.

From the home support team, the USS NEW MEXICO Committee, to VADM Connor, "Welcome aboard, sir!"


Images courtesy US Navy Photos

See USS New Mexico (SSN-779) and the U.S. Navy's Silent Strike Force

September 14, 2012

A feature look at the US Navy's Silent Strike Force and its capabilities. At the 17-minute mark there is good coverage of USS NEW MEXICO and at the 25-minute mark the USS SANTA FE is mentioned.

USS New Mexico Visits U.S. Naval Academy

September 4, 2012
By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, Commander, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (NNS) -- The crew of Virginia-class attack submarine USS New Mexico (SSN 779) visited the U.S. Naval Academy, Aug. 31 - Sept. 3, to provide awareness of the undersea platform to future naval leaders.

"It's exciting to show some of the future leaders of our Navy and Marine Corps one of the most sophisticated and advanced warships in the world, which some of them may end up serving on," said Lt. Joel Holwitt, navigator, USS New Mexico.

Despite returning to his alma mater, Holwitt missed the opportunity to see the season opener of Academy football, when the Blue and Gold squared off against Notre Dame Sept. 1 in Dublin at the Emerald Isle Classic.

Holwitt is one of two U.S. Naval Academy graduates currently serving aboard the attack submarine. Graduating in 2003, Holwitt reflected on sharing the proud history and heritage of the Academy with the crew.

"The Naval Academy remains one of the best things that ever happened to me, and I am thrilled to be able to share some of that positive experience with my shipmates on board USS New Mexico," said Holwitt.

The last Groton-assigned boat to visit the U.S. Naval Academy was the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Alexandria (SSN 757). The attack submarine visited the capital city in Maryland Oct. 21-22 for the USNA's homecoming game.

USS New Mexico Sailors Recognized at New York Yankees Game

August 21, 2012
By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, Commander, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs

NEW YORK (NNS) -- Sixteen USS New Mexico (SSN 779) Sailors were recognized at a New York Yankees game in New York, Aug. 15.

With a capacity crowd in attendance, Cmdr. George Perez, Jr., commanding officer, USS New Mexico and 15 Sailors assigned to the Virginia-class submarine attended the Yankees vs. Texas Rangers game and were recognized by the Major League Baseball team on the team's Jumbotron in the middle of the third and fifth innings.

"Attending the game is an outstanding morale-building event for the New Mexico," said Perez. "The officers and crew of USS New Mexico are sincerely grateful for the opportunity to represent the submarine force at the game."

Perez also thanked local Connecticut businessman John Ranelli, chairman and CEO of Woolrich, Inc., and a former submariner for providing the opportunity to attend the Yankees game, as well as the New York Yankees.

USS New Mexico (SSN-779) Now Has New XO and COB

August 21, 2012

Following are bios for LCDR Michael Grubb, NEW MEXICO's new Executive Officer since March, and ETCM(SS) Steven Fritzler, NEW MEXICO's new Chief of the Boat as of August 17.

Executive Officer - LCDR Michael Grubb

USS NEW MEXICO Executive Officer, LCDR Michael Grubb

USS NEW MEXICO Executive Officer, LCDR Michael Grubb

The Executive Officer is Lieutenant Commander Michael Grubb. LCDR Grubb, a native of Southampton, New York, graduated from the University of Michigan in 2000 with a degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering and was commissioned through the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC).

Following nuclear power and submarine officer training, Lieutenant Commander Grubb reported aboard USS MIAMI (SSN 755) in October 2001 and served as the Chemistry and Radiological Controls Assistant and the Communications Officer.  During his tour MIAMI completed a deployment to the Mediterranean Sea and Arabian Gulf, as well as a surge deployment to the North Atlantic Ocean.

Following his tour on MIAMI, in August 2004 Lieutenant Commander Grubb reported to the staff of Destroyer Squadron Twenty Two in Norfolk, Virginia.  Serving as the staff Submarine Operations Officer, his tour included a deployment to the Arabian Gulf embarked on USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN 71) in support of OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM.  In February 2006 Lieutenant Commander Grubb reported to the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I., where he earned a Masters Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies and completed Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) Phase I.       

From September 2007 to October 2009 Lieutenant Commander Grubb served as the Engineering Officer aboard USS PENNSYLVANIA (SSBN 735)(BLUE).  During this time PENNSYLVANIA (BLUE) completed three strategic deterrent patrols and earned the 2008 COMSUBRON 17 Battle Efficiency Award.

In October 2009 Lieutenant Commander was assigned to the Naval Reactors Line Locker in Washington, DC, where he served as the Technical Assistant for S8G, S9G, and prototype reactor plants. 

Following completion of the Submarine Command Course Lieutenant Commander Grubb reported as Executive Officer aboard USS NEW MEXICO (SSN 779) in March 2012.

Lieutenant Commander Grubb is single and resides in Mystic, CT.

Chief of the Boat - Steven B. Fritzler, ETCM(SS)

The Chief of the Boat is Steven B. Fritzler, ETCM(SS). Master Chief Fritzler was raised in Worland, Wyoming and enlisted in the Navy 12 July 1988.  He completed Recruit Training in Great Lakes and Radioman “A” School in Groton, Connecticut.

Master Chief Fritzler’s sea duty assignments include USS SAN JUAN (SSN 751), USS ANNAPOLIS (SSN 760) and USS NEW HAMPSHIRE (SSN 778).  His shore duty assignments included Naval Submarine School and on the staff of Commander Submarine Squadron 4.

Master Chief Fritzler first qualified in submarines in 1991 on board the USS SAN JUAN.  During this tour he was advanced to RM1 and completed two deployments to the North Atlantic.

Following his tour on USS SAN JUAN he reported to Naval Submarine School where he earned the Master Training Specialist certification and was advanced to Chief Petty Officer.

His follow-on assignment was the USS ANNAPOLIS, where he served as the Navigation Operations Department Enlisted Advisor, Communications Division Leading Petty Officer and advanced to Senior Chief Petty Officer. During this tour he completed one deployment to the Mediterranean. 

Upon completion of his tour on USS ANNAPOLIS he was assigned to the staff of Commander Submarine Squadron 4 where he served as the Communications Assistant from 2004 to 2007. 

He then reported to the commissioning crew as the 3M Coordinator on board the USS NEW HAMPSHIRE. During this tour the NEW HAMPSHIRE deployed to AFRICOM and was the first Virginia-Class to complete an overseas deployment.

Master Chief Fritzler returned to Commander Submarine Squadron 4 where he served as the Communications Assistant from 2010 to 2012.

Master Chief Fritzler reported to USS NEW MEXICO (SSN 779) in August 2012 and is currently serving as the Chief of the Boat.

Master Chief Fritzler’s personnel awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (four awards), the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (seven awards) and various unit and campaign awards.

New Mexico’s Chief of the Boat Wins Leadership Award

August 1, 2012

The winner of the coveted 2012 Naval Submarine League Master Chief Frank A. Lister Award for Exceptional Leadership and Motivation while serving as the Chief of the Boat has been awarded to Master Chief Electronics Technician (SS) Eric J. Murphy, COB, USS New Mexico (SSN 779).

Established in 2000, the Master Chief Frank A. Lister Award recognizes a COB who has displayed exceptional leadership and motivation of his crew while serving as the COB for a submarine.

According to a Submarine Group Two news announcement, Lister was selected twice to serve as the Atlantic Fleet Submarine Force Master Chief, first in 1975 and then again in 1979. He was also selected three times, in 1975, 1978 and 1982, as a finalist for Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy.

Eric Murphy, who has served as the COB for three years, received the news during morning quarters on July 30th. He credits the crew of USS New Mexico. "This award is a testament of the hard work, dedication and commitment of the New Mexico sea warriors," said Murphy. "I am honored to serve with a crew of this caliber."

In mid-August, Eric will be transferring to his next assignment, Nuclear Power Training Unit in Charleston, SC, where he will no doubt continue to instill exceptional leadership and motivation in the next generation of submariners.

The Naval Submarine League is dedicated to educating the American public and promoting awareness of the importance of submarines to national security and defense. At the League’s 30th annual Symposium in October, ETCM(SS) Murphy will be recognized as the 2012 winner of the esteemed Master Chief Lister Award.


Click here to read the story and view the photographs


Battleship USS New Mexico (BB-40) Sailor from Idaho
Operating with Sister Battleship USS Idaho in the Gilbert Islands
and other Islands of the Pacific Theatre during World War II


Compiled by Dick Brown, Chairman of the Navy League New Mexico Council’s committee that supports New Mexico’s new namesake warship, the fast-attack nuclear submarine USS New Mexico (SSN-779).

Click here to read the story and view the photographs

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 and for more information about the Navy League’s New Mexico Council, go to

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

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.