Close-up of submarine

Several members of Task Force 21, Minot’s base retention and new mission committee, got an up-close look at the Navy’s nuclear submarines this past week.

The group’s tour was part of the 2013 Kings Bay Triad Conference held Nov. 7-8 at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in southeastern Georgia. The conference was sponsored by the Submarine Industrial Base Council, The Camden Partnership, Camden County (Ga.) Chamber of Commerce and Camden-Kings Bay Council Navy League of the United States.

The Minot group going to Kings Bay included Mark Jantzer, chairman of Task Force 21, John MacMartin, president of the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce, Bruce Christianson, Pete Hankla and Sen. Randy Burckhard, R-Minot.

Minot Air Force Base has two of the three legs of the nuclear triad strategic bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Navy has the third leg of the triad submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

Jantzer was in the group touring the USS Alaska, an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine. Others toured another submarine.

“It was fascinating the mission that these guys have,” Jantzer said. “These subs are in port for 35 days getting refitted, restocked. They leave and then go out on patrol for 77 days and then come back in and that 35-day cycle starts and they do it all over again. It’s quite a mission,” he said.

“Being a landlubber from way inland in North Dakota, the sea is sort of fascinating to most of us anyway,” Jantzer said. But, he said, to think these Navy folks in submarines go out in these boats that submerge and probably don’t resurface until they come back 77 days later. “It’s amazing,” he added.

He said he and others on the tour looked over the tight quarters inside the submarine.

“We were fascinated by walking by the missile launch tubes and in between that, for instance, would be a bunk… The captain who was touring us said that’s somebody’s rack,” he said.

He observed that the morale of the submarine crewmembers “is wonderful.”

“We talked to a lot of them and they are very excited about their mission and they’re doing a great job,” Jantzer said.

After his visit, Jantzer said he has an even much greater appreciation of what the Navy does in performing this mission.

The submarine tour and symposium are among several nuclear triad events held in past months.

“I planned this event some years ago as a means of demonstrating the unified Navy and Air Force commitment to the triad as America’s critical nuclear deterrent. This the fourth planned event which has included Washington, Minot and Kings Bay and will include the NavSea Crane, Indiana, event next spring,” said Peter Huessy, president of GeoStrategic Analysis, a defense consulting firm in Potomac, Md.

He said they are also planning 2014-15 events in Washington, at Whiteman AFB, Mo., a U.S. Air Force base where B-2 bombers are based, at the New Mexico nuclear weapons center which includes three nuclear laboratories and top officials from the National Nuclear Security Administration, and at a Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile base.

“There is unfortunately very large resources being devoted to efforts to undermine key areas of our nuclear deterrent even though today we are spending as a percent of the federal budget less than 6/10ths of 1 percent of our federal budget compared to over 5.5 percent of our federal budget on the nuclear enterprise at the end of the Cold War,” Huessy said.

“We have delayed by 24 years the necessary modernization of much of our nuclear deterrent and now we must face that task. These meetings as part of my own 34-year breakfast seminar series in Washington, D.C., on nuclear deterrence is an effort to see that we as Americans carry out that solemn responsibility of ‘providing for the common defense,'” Huessy said.

The Kings Bay conference follows the nuclear triad symposium sponsored by the Minot Chamber and Task Force 21 held in Minot in May. The Minot event featured former U.S. ambassadors, present and former military leaders and other high-level experts in that field as presenters. The Minot Area Chamber of Commerce also hosted a symposium similar to the Minot event in Washington, D.C., last year.

The first part of the Kings Bay conference covered “the triad and what we need to do to recapitalize and continue deterrence,” with specific emphasis at the meeting of what the Navy is doing to replace the Ohio class submarines that have been in service for 20-some years now with new ships, Jantzer said.

The second part was the actual operations of the sea-based leg of the nuclear triad aboard the 14 submarines with that job, and then the tour of the Ohio class submarines.

The Kings Bay conference had a group of high- ranking speakers and panelists to include the best experts in the business, Jantzer said. Some presenters for the Minot symposium also spoke at Kings Bay.

Speakers and panelists at Kings Bay included retired Gen. Larry Welch, former commander of Strategic Air Command and chief of staff of the Air Air Force; Vice Adm. Terry Benedict, director of Strategic Systems Program; Rear Adm. Richard Breckenridge, director of Undersea Warfare Divison; Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak, assistant chief of staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration; Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command; Vice Adm. Michael Connor, commander of Submarine Forces; and Huessy.