NAVAL BASE POINT LOMA, CALIF. (NNS) – The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Albuquerque (SSN 706) returned to its homeport Aug. 21 following its final regularly-scheduled deployment.
Albuquerque, under the command of Cmdr. Trent Hesslink, returned from the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility where the crew executed the Chief of Naval Operations' Maritime Strategy in supporting national security interests and maritime security operations.
"This crew did an absolutely amazing job," said Hesslink. "We trained well, left at the top of our game, and to close out Albuquerque's service life with such a successful deployment, I couldn't ask for more."
Albuquerque left its homeport of San Diego on Feb. 6 and steamed more than 50,000 nautical miles during the deployment. Port visits were conducted in Stirling, Australia; Duqm, Oman; and Diego Garcia.
For one Albuquerque Sailor, this final deployment was bittersweet.
"I've been aboard for four years and to know this is it, it's tough to imagine this boat no longer being at sea," said Electronics Technician Petty Officer 1st Class Derek Warren. "I have a lot of memories on this boat, and I will certainly miss it."
In its more than 32-year career, Albuquerque deployed more than 15 times, steamed more than 500,000 miles, and visited nearly 20 countries. Albuquerque was also one of the first nuclear submarines to experience combat, gaining the moniker of "Sure Shooter of the Submarine Force."
Albuquerque is scheduled to transit to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, in Bremerton, Washington, later this year for its inactivation and decommissioning.
Albuquerque was commissioned May 21, 1983. Measuring more than 360 feet long and displacing more than 6,900 tons, Albuquerque has a crew of approximately 140 Sailors. Albuquerque is capable of supporting various missions, including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, strike warfare, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
A small Welcome Home note found in one of 150 gift bags, one for each and every crew member.
Bags donated by the San Diego USO
Note the Welcome Home Lei on the Sail
Excited family members waiting for their sailors aboard the USS Albuquerque SSN-706
A-10 Warthog takes off from NAS North Island, the USS Albuquerque SSN-706
entered the ship channel from final deployment
An estimated 300+ family members were on hand for Homecoming
CDR Tenney (left) will become the last Commanding Officer of the USS Albuquerque SSN-706 on 28 August 2015.
The First Homecoming Kiss
The Flags Atop the Sail
Capt George Perez, former skipper of USS New Mexico (SSN-779), assumed command of the Trident Training Facility at Kings Bay, GA on August 7, 2015. If we post this, a more appropriate title for our purposes would be
Trident Training Facility Has Change of Command STSC Roy Oro, Kings Bay Periscope, Aug 12, 2015
In a traditional observance in front of a gathering of Sailors and civilian staff, Trident Training Facility Kings Bay held a change of command ceremony, August 7.
Capt. George Perez relieved Capt. Rodney Hutton, as commanding officer of Trident Training Facility, Kings Bay. Hutton, who led the command for the last three and a half years, will transfer to the NROTC Unit at Purdue University. Capt. David A. Roberts, commanding officer, Submarine Learning Center was guest speaker for the ceremony and lauded Hutton for his role in maintaining the readiness of Sailors in the fleet.
“TTF Kings Bay is at its best in its 25-year history. Capt. Hutton’s command has been essential to all of the success at TTF. Training and caring for his people is the legacy Capt. Hutton leaves behind.”
Capt. Hutton thanked his family for their shared sacrifice and recognized each of his departments for their hard work and dedication to contributing to fleet readiness. Capt. Hutton offered one of his well-known quotes.
“Two hundred and twelve degrees won’t get you there, I need four hundred degrees and that is what we have here at Trident Training Facility.” His parting piece of advice to the audience was threefold, “Surround yourself with people who challenge you. Have a mentor in your life and let great be great.”
Capt. Perez, in his first remarks to his new command offered, “It is an honor and a privilege to take command of a training facility with the quality of TTF Kings Bay. The Submarine Force excels in training and the staff at TTF Kings Bay does it at the highest levels in the fleet. I look forward to the next three years and I am thankful for the opportunity.”
Navy League of the United States New Mexico Council 2015 Continuing Education Scholarship recipient Jonathan Schueler with family, left to right - Chuck Vaughan (New Mexico Council President), Jonathan Schueler, Bill Schueler, Elizabeth Schueler, Tina Schueler and Senior Naval Science Instructor, LCDR Wes Shumaker of Los Alamos High School. Photos courtesy of John L. Jones.
Navy League of the United States New Mexico Council 2015 Continuing Education Scholarship recipient Nicholas Trimmer with (l to r) Chuck Vaughn (New Mexico Council President), Nicholas Trimmer, 1st Sgt Alberto Griego (La Cueva JROTC Program Commander), Paula West and Mark Trimmer. Photos courtesy of John L. Jones.
North Pole Flag for Hiroshi Miyamura
Story written by Dick Brown; photo courtesy of Donna Brown
The Navy League of the United States New Mexico Council USS New Mexico Committee presented a New Mexico state flag to Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Hiroshi "Hershey" Miyamura of Gallup, NM. The flag, accompanied by a certificate, is very special as it was flown from USS New Mexico (SSN-779) when she surfaced at the geographic North Pole last year. The certificate was signed by the submarine’s Commanding Officer, CDR Todd Moore, USN.
Hershey attended New Mexico's naming ceremony on December 6, 2004, where he was presented an admiral ballcap by Secretary of the Navy Gordon England. Hershey was born in Gallup, has lived there all his life, lost his wife Terry of 66 years last year, and is still going strong. He is a WWII and Korean War veteran and a huge hometown hero.
During the Korean War, a fierce attack by Chinese forces threatened to overrun the position of Hershey’s Army unit. American forces were grossly outnumbered. As squad leader, Corporal Miyamura shouted, “You guys get out of here. I’ll hold them off for as long as I can.” He killed 10 enemy soldiers in hand-to-hand combat. He then opposed the next assault using bayonet and fire from two machine guns, killing more than 50 enemy soldiers. Severely wounded, Hershey continued fighting until he ran out of ammunition and was taken prisoner. He was a POW for over two years and news of his pending MOH award remained top secret until he was finally released. If the enemy knew he was destined for our nation's highest honor, he would have been killed without mercy.
That Korean winter of 1950-1951 saw subzero temperatures, icy winds and deep snow. It seems fitting then that Hershey be presented with a flag that had flown under similar frigid conditions. That flag and certificate will be part of a permanent exhibit at Hiroshi Miyamura High School in Gallup.
The courage, leadership, patriotism and sacrifice that Hershey displayed in the Korean War was way above and beyond the call of duty. After the war, President Dwight Eisenhower presented the Medal of Honor to Hershey in a White House ceremony. The President said, “I’m a little nervous, I have not done this before.” Hershey responded, “This is my first time too!” Last year he received the Korean Medal of Honor! What a great American!
Side note: Hershey and many other MOH recipients as well as Navajo Code Talkers share a place of honor in the lobby of Gallup’s Comfort Suites. The motel, under the management of Air Force veteran Ken Riege, is a 4-time winner of the company’s platinum award for excellence and is part of the reason Gallup was named the most patriotic city in America. Ken often accompanies Hershey on out-of-state events and continues to be of great assistance to Hershey, who turns 90 in October.
New Mexico Flag Flown at North Pole on Display at La Posta
story written by Dick Brown
A very special New Mexico state flag that flew from the nuclear submarine USS New Mexico (SSN-779) when she surfaced through the ice at the geographic North Pole in March 2014 is now on permanent display in the entrance hallway of La Posta de Mesilla Restaurant and Cantina in Mesilla, NM.
The flag display is compliments of the submarine’s skipper, CDR Todd Moore, and the Albuquerque-based Navy League of the United States New Mexico Council, the home support team for the submarine. The display includes a Certificate of Authenticity, signed by the Commanding Officer, and two photos, one showing several crew members holding up a larger flag while standing on the ice nearly two miles above the Arctic Ocean floor, the other with nearly a third of the ship’s company posed with a USS New Mexico brow banner.
Several years ago, after a statewide contest, the crew of the USS New Mexico named their galley after the historic La Posta de Mesilla Restaurant and Cantina. “It has truly been an honor and privilege to be associated with the USS New Mexico and her dedicated crew. The flag is a welcomed addition to other items displayed from the USS New Mexico, including a precision scale model,” according to Tom Hutchinson, a retired Navy Captain, who along with his wife Jerean, own the historic, world-renown establishment. USA Today placed La Posta on its list of the top ten Mexican restaurants in the nation.
“When not deployed, we try to provide the officers and crew with “care packages” and our cuisine/chile from La Posta. We also carry many items from the submarine in our Gift Shop, including ball caps, coffee mugs, shot glasses, and USS New Mexico baseballs,” stated Jerean.
“Every couple of years, we look forward to hosting a few of the submarine galley’s culinary specialists at our restaurant, providing them the opportunity to work side-by-side with our kitchen staff and learn many of our recipes. My staff always looks forward to the opportunity to work with these young patriots!” explained Tom.
Tom and Jerean are very proud of La Posta Abajo del Mar – La Posta Beneath the Sea - the galley and crews mess aboard the submarine. Its décor is pure Southwest and every other Tuesday is Fajita Tuesday. With culinary specialists trained in New Mexico cuisine at La Posta in Mesilla, it is a very special sea-going restaurant. Also very special is the strong bond between the restaurant and our undersea warriors.
Navy League of the United States New Mexico Council Member and Chairman of the USS New Mexico SSN-779 Committee, Damon Runyan attended the Naval Sea Cadet Triton Battalion Annual Award Ceremony at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on Chelwood Drive in Albuquerque, NM.
The Battalion celebrated their 1st anniversary under the new name Triton Battalion, named after nuclear submarine USS Triton, which was decommissioned on 3 May 1969. The submarine’s motto was “Second to None”, a goal the Triton Battalion maintains in its quest to be among the very best NSCC Batallions in the United States.
A very stirring ceremony was conducted by the Battalion, where a bell was tolled as the name of the vessel, date of sinking, and number of lives lost for every U.S. Navy submarine lost at sea since the late 1800’s to 1968. They recognized 63 submarines carrying over 2,300 sailors. It was a truly fitting and solemn ceremony.
This year’s Navy League of the United States Theodore Roosevelt Certificate and Youth Medal was awarded to Cadet Petty Officer Second Class Yvonne Varela, singled out as the top cadet in the Battalion.
Cadet Varela will be a junior at Manzano High School this next school year and is also a member of their Navy Junior ROTC unit. This coming year Cadet Varela will also be the Battalion Cadet Commander for the Triton Battalion. She is from Albuquerque and is working toward gaining an appointment to one of the military academies; her first choice is the U.S. Naval Academy. She would love to serve in the Navy or Coast Guard.
The picture attached is of Cadet Varela with the NSCC Battalion Commanding Officer, LTJG David J. Adair, and the Navy League Representative for the New Mexico Council, Damon Runyan, LCDR USN(Ret.).
The Navy Band Southwest performed for Military Appreciation Day at Rodeo de Santa Fe in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The band led by MU1 Roberts performed in New Mexico in Gallup, Truth or Consequences and Albuquerque before heading to Santa Fe for the rodeo.
Photo courtesy of Rick Carver is of the Navy Band Southwest and the display of the USS Santa Fe SSN-763 flag, which bears the signature of the USS Santa Fe crew. Displaying the flag were Navy League of the United States New Mexico Council USS Santa Fe Committee members Buck Rackley and Peter Ives who is also the Mayor Pro Tem for the City of Santa Fe.
Color Guard provided by Kirkland AFB. Image can be seen on the big screen of Commander Tim Poe and former Santa Fe mayor David Coss. The image was taken during the 2014 Homecoming in Pearl Harbor.
Images of several provided to the Rodeo de Santa Fe for use during the evening.
Letter to Petty Officer Stuble from Damon Runyan, LCDR USN(Ret.)
Navy League of the United States, New Mexico Council
Chairman, USS New Mexico Committee
It was indeed an honor for me to be able to speak to the crowd last night in Old Town Albuquerque at the performance of the Navy Band Southwest Brass Band. I really enjoyed meeting each of the band members and to give each a USS NEW MEXICO ball cap to remember your visit here and show the NBSW that can count on the Navy League of New Mexico. It is always great for us to see Navy uniforms here in New Mexico.
Please thank each member of NBSW and LT Hoffman to be able to enjoy your lively music and the presence of active duty guys in a state without too much Navy presence. You had a photographer present and he promised to send me several of the photos he took last night. Attached are two photos I took. Best of luck on the remainder of your trip to New Mexico.
For many years the Military Order of World Wars of Santa Fe (MOWW) has produced the Massing of the Colors held at the Veteran's Memorial in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico. For 2015 a total of 40 flags were on display carried by various groups including the Navy League of the United States USS Santa Fe SSN-763 Committee. This event is held annually as part Flag Day celebrations.
The Veteran's Memorial and the Massing of the Colors
Navy League of the United States USS Santa Fe SSN-763 Committee member
Ron Olexsak with the Navy League New Mexico Council Flag
Santa Fe High School NJROTC Color Guard
Don't Tread On Me Flag, carried by Navy League of the United States USS Santa Fe SSN-763
Committee members Peter Mizrahi and Joe White. This flag came from the USS Santa Fe and
was flown while in port. Photos courtesy of Rick Carver.
Kitchen Angels in Santa Fe, New Mexico, provides meals for home bound patients many of whom are Veteran's. The Culinary Specialists are all volunteer. During past visits to Santa Fe, the USS Santa Fe SSN-763 crew assisted in the kitchen. The crew of the USS Santa Fe have donated nearly $5000 to Kitchen Angels over the last two and a half years. Photo by Navy League of the United States New Mexico Council 763 Committee Chairman Rick Carver shows some of the kitchen staff with the most recent check from the USS Santa Fe crew for $1500. We thank them all!
Region President Angie McKinstry presided over the annual conference for the Rocky Mountain Region in Aurora, CO on May 16, 2015. It was preceded the night before by a Gala featuring ADM William Gortney, Commander of NORAD and USNORTHCOM. Both events were hosted by the Denver Council.
Nearly 150 attended the gala, including incoming Colorado midshipmen to the Naval Academy and various ROTC units, parents, sea cadets, veterans and Navy Leaguers. ADM Gortney was both inspiring and entertaining. He had all the midshipmen move up front. There he directed his remarks to them on seven values: integrity, courage, judgment, passion, excellence, balance and service.
Our New Mexico Council is one of six in this 4-state Navy League region. For the first time in years, the New Mexico Council, the Colorado Council (dba USS Colorado Commissioning Committee), the Colorado Springs Council, the Denver Council, the Wyoming Council and the Utah Council were represented. Also attending from Navy League headquarters were current National President Jim Offutt, President-elect Skip Witunski and Region Affairs Director Bill Waylett. Representing New Mexico, besides Angie, were Chuck & Kris Vaughan and Dick & Donna Brown.
Attendees provided presentations on council activities, including submarine support, legislative affairs, communications, recruiting and membership. Regarding the latter, there is a move underfoot to develop some branding (maybe a tagline) and to use social media to attract the younger set. At present a third of our membership are lifers (13,000 life members).
Navy League of the United States Santa Fe Committee member Peter Mizrah planting flags at the Santa Fe Memorial Cemetery, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Committee members assisted in planting 53,000 flags. It was a lovely day at the Santa Fe Memorial Cemetery. The USS Santa Fe SSN-763 flag, signed by the crew, was prominently displayed.
Navy League of the United States New Mexico Council awarded Chelsea Perea, now a junior, with the Navy League's Teddy Roosevelt Youth Medal at Cibola High School's MCJROTC Awards Program.
Representing Navy League of the United States New Mexico Council, Patrick Dick, Frances Fernandes and Rick Carver presented Rio Rancho High School's MCJROTC awards. Patrick Dick awarded the Navy League Teddy Roosevelt Youth Medal and Award to Cadet Lance Corporal Hailey S. Barela. Photo courtesy of Rick Carver.
Representing Navy League of the United States New Mexico Council, CAPT Bill Verzino presented, Cadet Ensign Marissa McCullough, with the Navy League Teddy Roosevelt Youth Award at Santa Fe High School NJROTC Ceremony. Photo courtesy of Rick Carver.
Representing Navy League of the United States New Mexico Council, CAPT Bill Verzino presented U.S. Naval Academy Annapolis bound cadet, David Murphy, with the Navy League Teddy Roosevelt Youth Award at Los Alamos High School NJROTC Ceremony.
Left to right: CAPT Bill Verzino, Cadet Murphy and CO LCDR Shumaker. Photo courtesy of Rick Carver.
Congratulations to Commander Timothy Poe and his beautiful wife Elena for jobs well done! Commander Timothy Poe, Commanding Officer of the USS Santa Fe (SSN-763), has been selected for advancement to Captain. "Looks like they have me slated to be the senior inspector on the tactical readiness team in Norfolk".
Permission to make this announcement comes directly from CDR Poe. April 24, 2015
Albuquerque High School, Army JROTC Cadet C/MSG Thomas Jeff receiving the Navy League of the United States New Mexico Council's Theodore Roosevelt NJROTC Youth Award, April 2015, Frances Fernandes presenter, Rick Carver photographer.
On Thursday, April 9,2015, a ceremony took place honoring the Bataan Death March. Unveiled inside the Bataan Building is a display of some artifacts from the Bataan March. These artifacts came from the basement of the Bataan Museum in Santa Fe. Also unveiled and on display is a model of the USS New Mexico SSN-779 which also had been stored in the Bataan Museum basement. The USS NEW MEXICO model finally has a home!
February 25, 2015 was Military and Veterans Day at the New Mexico State Legislature. Of the many activities in the State Capitol that day were presentations by the House and Senate to recognize the city namesake submarine USS Albuquerque’s 33 years of service to our Navy and our Nation.
USS Albuquerque (SSN-706), under the command of CDR Trent Hesslink, recently embarked on her final deployment. When she returns to her homeport in San Diego later this year, she will be decommissioned. Attending Military and Veterans Day on behalf of the Commanding Officer was CDR Don Tenney, Deputy Commander, Submarine Squadron 11.
Celebrations of USS Albuquerque began on the House Floor where Speaker Don Tripp presented a certificate to CDR Tenney officially expressing the State’s pride in the submarine’s outstanding achievements over the years.
On the Senate Floor, State Senator and retired Rear Admiral Bill Payne sponsored Senate Memorial 12 which salutes the officers and crew of USS Albuquerque. Again, CDR Tenney accepted on behalf of the Commanding Officer. The Memorial, which passed the Senate unanimously, listed many accomplishments of USS Albuquerque, including her becoming one of our first nuclear submarines to experience combat. That was in 16 years ago when she became known as “Sure Shooter of the Submarine Force” for her exceptional performance.
When the boat returns to port, CDR Tenney will relieve CDR Hesslink as the Inactivation Commanding Officer of USS Albuquerque. As the 14th and final CO, he will have the honor of commanding the submarine on her final voyage to Bremerton, Washington late this year where the combat veteran will be decommissioned and eventually dismantled.
Since her commissioning on May 21, 1983, USS Albuquerque steamed over 500,000 miles, visited over 18 countries, dived over 1,000 times, and completed over 15 deployments.
Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez also expressed his gratitude to the many submariners who have served with pride and distinction aboard USS Albuquerque over the years.
Navy League participation in the celebrations in the Merry Roundhouse included Chuck Vaughan, Rick Carver, Dick Brown, Mike Warren, Bill Verzino, Greg Scargall, Peter Mizrahi, Frances Fernandes and Renee White.
The crew of the USS Santa Fe hosted a Distinguished Visitors (DV) Cruise out of the Point Loma Naval Base, January 29, 2015. The Santa Fe had traveled to the West Coast as part of their preparation for an upcoming six month deployment.
Dick Brown and Santa Fe Fire Chief Erik Litzenberg joined 22 others for what will be Commander Timothy Poe’s last DV cruise. Everyone on this cruise were directly involved in bringing the Santa Fe crew to New Mexico October 2014.
When the USS Santa Fe returns from its scheduled deployment in the fall of this year, a Change of Command will take place at home port Pearl Harbor. Many of the Navy League of the United States New Mexico Council 763 Committee members intend to fly to Pearl Harbor to take part in USS Santa Fe's Homecoming and Change of Command ceremonies.
As a departing gift, DV cruisers gave Commander Poe and his wife Elena a state-of-the-art Karaoke Machine. Other gifts for the crew included 50 pounds of coffee, a fine selection of some local chili powders, several jars of local honey, and three cook books. The crew of the USS Santa Fe have acquired a taste for New Mexico cooking!
Committee co-chairman Mike Warren presented USS Santa Fe Sailor of the Year and Junior Sailor of the Year plaques.
As we left the harbor we passed the USS Albuquerque (SSN-706) as they headed back to Point Loma to make final preparations for their last deployment. SSN 706 is scheduled for decommissioning in the fall of 2015.
"The letters you see above are from 3rd Grade North Star Elementary School students and 4th and 5th Grade students from Southwest Learning Center, all in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A representative from the New Mexico Council, retired LCDR Damon Runyan went to both schools, on 13 October and 5 November, and presented details about how the USS NEW MEXICO got its name and its official crest, facts about how the submarine works, and information about how the crew survives beneath the sea. The enthusiastic students then wrote letters or designed Christmas cards for the crew members onboard USS NEW MEXICO and that package was forwarded to the boat at its homeport in Groton, Connecticut. Then just before Christmas, a package arrived here in Albuquerque from the Chief of the Boat, Master Chief Steve Fritzler, with individual responses to those letters and cards from crew members of all ranks and responsibilities that serve our Navy aboard this great vessel. Those responses will be hand-delivered to the students shortly after they return to class after the Holiday break."
Here are the Crew's responses to the students letters.