USS North Dakota group waiting for new commissioning date

The USS North Dakota Committee is continuing to make plans for the commissioning of North Dakota’s namesake submarine, although the originally commissioning date was postponed recently.

The commissioning had been set for May 31 in Groton, Conn., but a letter from Navy Rear Adm. D.C. Johnson sent last month to the USS North Dakota Committee informed the group that the event was delayed because of a redesign involving inserting the submarine’s vertical payload tubes into the ship’s bow.

Robert Wefald, Bismarck, chairman of the USS North Dakota Committee and guest speaker at the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve appreciation luncheon held in the Grand Hotel in Minot April 29, said there also was a supplier problem with certain parts for the submarine but that problem was expected to be remedied.

“Right now North Dakota is back in the drydock,” Wefald said. He said it is being inspected there.

He said until the problem is corrected, the Navy will not accept it and it will not be commissioned. “How long that’s going to take? We have no idea,” he said.

Navy officials have said the boat will be delivered by the end of August.

“I guarantee you this boat will not be commissioned until it’s absolutely 100 percent ready to go,” Wefald added.

A large group of people from North Dakota had planned to attend the submarine’s commissioning.

Although Wefald said it is a disappointment that the commissioning will not be held this month as initially planned but it does allow for more time for fundraising. The committee will be hosting a number of events around the commissioning event in Groton.

The North Dakota group is conducting fundraising through the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce.

The submarine

The USS North Dakota is the second ship to be named for North Dakota. The first one was a battleship that was only in service for 13 years, Wefald said.

He said the 377-foot USS North Dakota submarine will serve for 33 years without ever refueling.

The submarine will have a 134-member crew 120 enlisted and 14 officers, Wefald said.

North Dakota native, Tim Preibt, who was born in Minot and raised in Williston and Mandan, is one of the crewmembers. Preibt is the submarine’s chief of boat the highest -ranking enlisted officer.

Wefald said the submarine has a unique crest that is symbolic of North Dakota’s heritage as well as the crewmembers.

The crest design was selected from about 100-plus designs submitted from across the state and some from out of state, Wefald said.

He said the crest ties in with North Dakota’s heritage. A banner stretches across the top with “USS North Dakota” and a star on each side represents the first and second USS North Dakota.

Underneath each end of the banner are horse heads representing the Nokota horses, Wefald said. The Nokota horse is the state’s honorary equine. The breed is believed to be descended from the Sioux Chief Sitting Bull’s ponies and some of these horses still run wild in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Wefald said the stars in the sky in the crest (below the name banner) represent the constellation Orion, the hunter, and are over a silhouette of the first USS North Dakota the battleship. Below is a picture showing a portion of the USS North Dakota submarine.

A pair of pistols below the submarine represent the crew one gold to represent the officers and one silver to represent the enlisted. The handle of the gold pistol says “Rough” and the handle of the silver pistol says “Riders,” referring to the 26th president Theodore Roosevelt and his ties to North Dakota.

“The dolphins are the emblems of qualified submarine sailors,” Wefald said.

“The SSN784 and the crossed tomahawks are our North Dakota heritage of our Indian people and also the tomahawk cruise missiles, he said.

On each side of the crest are sheaves of wheat, with the words “Strength of the Soil” running along one side and “Reapers of the Deep” on the other side.

“Reapers of the Deep” has a dual meaning reaping grain and also reaping threats from underwater, Wefald said.

The ship took 60 months to build at a cost of $2.6 billion, Wefald said.

“When it gets out there, it will be the most modern, best-equipped attack submarine in the world,” he said.