ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- USS Alaska (SSBN 732) Sailors participated in a six-day namesake visit to Alaska, November 10-16.
Eight crew members, including the boat’s Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Eric Cole, and Chief of the Boat, Master Chief Machinist’s Mate (Auxiliary) Christopher Yacur, traveled to Anchorage, the first time in more than a decade the crew has visited their namesake state.
Namesake visits, like the crew’s trip to Anchorage, enhance public awareness and a greater understanding of the U.S. Navy through their connection with the boat's namesake.
The trip included various veterans' events, including a visit to the Alaska Veterans Museum, the Chris Kyle Patriots Hospital and a Fallen Warrior Ceremony in honor of Veterans Day. The crew also met with state and local officials including senators and state representatives, the city’s mayor and the state’s veterans' affairs director.
“The goal of these visits is to give back to the community and talk about what a submarine does and educate the people of Alaska on our mission,” said Cole. “But the other side is to rekindle the relationship with the USS Alaska and the state of Alaska. We are very proud to be named USS Alaska and it’s an honor to be here.”
Many of state’s local military leadership such as the U.S. Coast Guard, Alaska’s National Guard and Alaska Command, a subordinate unified command of U.S. Northern Command, met with the crew of the submarine to share the military’s efforts in the area.
The trip also afforded crew members the opportunity to speak to high school students about their mission and what life is like onboard a submarine. Alaska has a small Navy presence in the state and the trip allowed the students to speak to the highly-trained and skilled Sailors who operate the world’s most feared and complex warships in the world.
“I feel like the Air Force is a little more well known here because of where the base is, so I think it’s good for the Navy to come because it sparks a little interest,” said Isaac Jennings, an Eagle River High School student in Anchorage and a member of the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC). “It’s really different and very interesting.”
“It’s great to talk to younger people and explain what we do and why it’s important,” said Yeoman 1st Class Daniel Hancock, a Sailor assigned to the Alaska and part of the namesake visit team. “Maybe one day they’ll be a submariner, too.”
Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarines like Alaska, often referred to as “boomers,” serve as a strategic deterrent by providing an undetectable platform for submarine-launched ballistic missiles. They are designed specifically for stealth, extended patrols and precise delivery of missiles if directed by the President. The Ohio-class design allows the submarines to operate for 15 or more years between major overhauls. On average, the submarines spend 77 days at sea followed by 35 days in-port for maintenance.
“Namesake visits are important because it establishes a community relationship with the state and the submarine who bears its name to let the people of Alaska know they have a boat out there doing a mission that is one of the vital missions of our country right now, strategic deterrence,” said Hancock. “A lot of the general public don’t know a lot about our mission and what we do and that we’re on watch protecting our country around the world at all times.”
The trip to Alaska was a first for many and an important part of sharing with and educating local communities on the importance of submarines and the crews that operate them. It also allows Sailors to give back to the community that supports them.
Alaska is the fourth U.S. Navy vessel to be commissioned with the state’s name and is part of the Navy’s mission to provide a credible nuclear force, deterring aggression and providing assurance for our allies and partners. Commissioned in 1986, the boat has served the nation for 34 years and is projected to remain in service well past 2020. At 18,000 tons, Alaska is capable of carrying 20 submarine-launched ballistic missiles and was the first submarine to complete 100 strategic deterrent patrols.
“This has been a great all-around experience for the crew and the community,” said Cole. “For our Sailors, it’s really important to travel to our namesake state and show their pride for the state our boat is named after, it makes what we do for a living a little more personal.”
USS Alaska is one of five Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarines homeported at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia.