Sub crew visits Minot

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE When the USS North Dakota, a Virginia-class nuclear submarine named for North Dakota, is ready to sail, Senior Chief Machinist Mate Richard Hicks and Electronics Technician 1st Class Robert Anderson will be on it.

On Thursday, Hicks, Anderson and Bob Wefald, Bismarck, chairman of the USS North Dakota Committee, spoke about the USS North Dakota to members of the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee. The meeting was held in the Doolittle Center at Minot Air Force Base.

Hicks and Anderson are the eighth and ninth members of the submarine’s crew to visit North Dakota for a “namesake visit.” From Minot and Minot AFB, they were making stops this week in Williston and Watford City.

The trip, sponsored by the USS North Dakota Committee, is being done to gain support and public education about the submarine SSN-784. It is the second U.S. Navy ship to be named after the state of North Dakota.

The nuclear-powered attack submarine, currently being built, will be commissioned next spring.

Hicks is the boat’s Auxiliary Division leading chief petty officer in charge of all the auxiliary machines on the boat, including the backup diesel generator.

Anderson is the Nuclear Reactor Control Division leading petty officer. In January he was selected the first ever 2012 “Sailor of the Year” for the USS North Dakota.

Hicks told the group, comprised of mainly Air Force members and local civilians, he has been in the Navy 22 years and the USS North Dakota is his fifth submarine.

“Now I have the chance to be on a Virginia-class,” he said. He said the USS North Dakota has significant capabilities that they didn’t have before with other submarines.

Anderson said he has been in the Navy about 8 1/2 years and the USS North Dakota is his second Virginia-class submarine. “There’s just more and more capabilities on each and every submarine that we build,” he said.

The USS North Dakota, a nuclear-powered attack submarine, is expected to operate for 33 years without refueling.

The nuclear reactor on the submarine will last more than 30 years, Anderson said. “That’s different than every other class of submarine prior to this one, is they used to have to refuel the reactors and we do not,” he said.

The ship is 377-feet long, 34-feet in diameter and 7,900 tons displacement. It is being built in Groton, Conn., by General Dynamic’s Electric Boat company for a cost of $2.6 billion. The submarine will take 60 months to build.

The USS North Dakota will be the first submarine to be equipped with two “six shooter” large missile tubes each armed with six Tomahawk cruise missiles. She also carries the latest sonar gear as well as torpedoes. The boat also has an added capability of carrying a wide variety of special forces and their equipment.

The launch/christening and sea trials are scheduled for this fall. Katie Fowler, wife of retired Navy Vice Adm. Jeff Fowler, a native of Bismarck, will christen the submarine.

The submarine’s commissioning is scheduled for spring 2014.

“What we want is all kinds of people from North Dakota to come out to the commissioning when it takes place in 2014,” Wefald said.

The USS North Dakota is commanded by Cmdr. Douglas V. Gordon, and will have a crew of 14 officers and 120 enlisted men.

Electronics Technician Master Chief Tim Preabt is chief of the boat. Preabt was born in Minot, educated in Williston and graduated from Mandan High School. As chief of the boat he is the senior enlisted adviser to the commanding officer.

“It’s a tremendous thing for our state, it’s the second ship named for our state,” Wefald said, adding, “It will be the most modern and capable vessel in the world when it gets commissioned in 2014.”

A model of the USS North Dakota, with information about the submarine, will be available for display at local businesses. Businesses wishing to display it can contact the Minot Chamber at 852-6000.

Navy ship to be named for city of Bismarck

North Dakota’s congressional delegation praised the Navy for naming one of its next three joint high-speed vessels the USNS Bismarck.

Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp and Rep. Kevin Cramer said in a joint news release Friday:

“It is a great honor to have this new Navy vessel named for North Dakota’s capital city. This name pays tribute to all North Dakotans and serves as an especially fitting recognition of all of our state’s veterans who have so honorably served our nation. We are grateful to these military men and women for their service, and we are thankful also for the Navy’s decision to recognize these fine individuals in one of the most tangible ways possible: by naming the newest member of the world’s largest and most powerful fleet after our wonderful capital city.”

USNS will be the first naval vessel to be named in honor of North Dakota’s capital city, the Department of Defense said.

(The Bismarck, probably Germany’s most famous battleship in World War II that was sunk May 27, 1941, was named after Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. In early years, Bismarck, N.D., was named by Northern Pacific Railroad officials for German Prince Otto von Bismarck after German bond holders rescued the financially-stricken railroad, according to historical information.)

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced Thursday the names selected for multiple ships.

The Navy’s Joint High Speed Vessel is a high-speed transport ship that serves in a variety of different capacities, including transporting troops and military equipment. Besides the USNS Bismarck, the Navy said two of the high-speed vessels will be the USNS Burlington, named for Burlington, Vt., and USNS Yuma, for Yuma, Ariz. The JHSV are named for small American cities and counties, according to Department of Defense information.

Two littoral combat ships will be named the USS Billings, to honor Montana’s largest city, and the USS Tulsa, named for Tulsa, Okla. Littoral combat ships are named to recognize cities that are one of the five most-populated communities in a state, the Defense Department said.

The Navy expects to complete the USNS Bismarck by February 2015 and plans to work with the congressional delegation to schedule a naming ceremony in Bismarck in the future.