Friday, February 20, 2009

Senior Leaders Salute Milestone Trident Submarine Patrol

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

NAVAL SUBMARINE BASE KING'S BAY, Ga., Feb. 19, 2009 - The Navy's top leaders and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were among senior officials who paid tribute to the crew of the USS Wyoming Trident strategic missile submarine during a ceremony here today.

The USS Wyoming finished its 38th patrol on Feb. 11, marking the 1000th completed patrol of a Trident submarine since the first, the USS Ohio, embarked on its initial patrol in October 1982.

The Wyoming was commissioned in July 1996 and began its first patrol in August 1997.

Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter said he was honored to participate in the commemoration of the 1000th Trident patrol, noting the occasion "is a great day for our Navy and our nation." U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston from Georgia also attended the ceremony.

Tridents are nuclear-powered, Ohio-class submarines. At 560 feet long and 42 feet wide, Tridents are the largest submarines in the U.S. Navy's inventory.

The 14 nuclear-missile carrying Trident submarines based at King's Bay and other Navy ports provide more than half of America's strategic deterrent capability, King's Bay officials said.

Although the world has experienced many conflicts since the end of World War II in 1945, Winter said, America's strategic deterrent "has ensured that none of them became major wars."

The Navy's Trident force "forms a credible deterrent" to prevent major conflict and promote peace, Winter said, "because it provides high measures of reliability, availability and survivability."

Trident submariners "support a noble mission" and "should be proud" of their efforts, Winter said.

The Trident submarines and the sailors that crew them provide "the most capable and most credible deterrent that this nation has to offer," said Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Cartwright also praised the home-front efforts of the spouses of Trident submariners, as well as the spouses of all servicemembers.

"Without them, we could not do our job," Cartwright said of military spouses' contributions. "They deserve our eternal gratefulness as a nation."

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead arrived at King's Bay after visiting with other Trident submariners and families based at the Navy installation in Bangor, Wash.

The Trident force can trace its legacy to the Polaris nuclear missile submarine program developed in the late 1950s to counter the Soviet nuclear threat, Roughead said.

"What we needed was a credible deterrent, a stealthy deterrent; a deterrent that could survive any attack, regardless of what was thrown at us and one that would not be defeated," Cartwright said of the U.S. decision to introduce the Polaris submarines.

The world changed greatly in the intervening years, Cartwright said. Yet, "the one thing that hasn't changed, and the one thing we continue to need," he said, "is that strong, stealthy, formidable, confident deterrent" that Trident submarine patrols provide.

Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, hailed the achievement of the 1000th Trident patrol as a "day in the spotlight" for the Navy's Trident submariners.

Some people, Chilton said, thought the Trident mission would end with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

However, the world continues to be a dangerous place, Chilton said, noting that the missions of the Tridents and other submarines "are as equally important today, as they ever were during the height of the Cold War."

Meanwhile, "the true strength of the ballistic-missile submarine lies in the extremely talented and motivated sailors who have voluntarily chosen to serve in the submarine community," said Navy Vice Adm. John J. Donnelly, commander of the U.S. Atlantic submarine fleet.

Navy Rear Adm. Timothy M. Giardina, commander of Submarine Group Trident, observed that the completion of the 1,000th Trident patrol also marks the completion of the 3,839th strategic deterrent submarine patrol stretching back to the era of the Polaris-missile submarine.

Giardina asked audience members "to keep in mind all submariners who are at sea and deployed around the world on strategic patrol."

A Trident's crew consists of about 160 officers and enlisted sailors. The original ballistic missile versions, such as the Wyoming, are nicknamed "Boomers," and they feature the designator SSBN. The Boomers are capable of carrying as many as 24 Trident II D-5 nuclear missiles. The vessel also carries Mark-48 torpedoes.

Trident submarines have two crews, called Blue and Gold, which rotate patrols. One crew is at sea for 60 to 90 days, while the other trains ashore. In this way, the vessels can be employed at sea 70 percent of the time, when not undergoing scheduled maintenance in port.

The Blue crew was aboard the Wyoming when it notched the 1,000th Trident patrol.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew F. Tammen, 22, and Navy Seaman Apprentice Sir Joseph Moses, 21, were among the Wyoming's Blue crew members who attended the ceremony.

Tammen, a four-year Navy veteran who hails from Braidwood, Ill., said he was pleased that his vessel goes into the record books as having completed the 1000th Trident patrol.

"We've had pretty high standards," Tammen said of duty aboard the Wyoming. "So, it's pretty good to be recognized for working really hard."

"I'm really proud of our guys," said Moses, who is from Florence, S.C., and has been in the Navy about a year. Moses volunteered for submarine duty "to do something different," he said.

The U.S. government agreed to reduce the number of its strategic-missile submarines as part of the 1992 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Consequently, four of the Navy's 18 Trident submarines were modified to exchange their nuclear missiles for Tomahawk guided cruise missiles. These vessels carry the designator SSGN. The first Trident ballistic-missile submarine, the USS Ohio, was commissioned in 1981. In 2006, the Ohio was converted into a guided-missile submarine.

Naval Submarine Base King's Bay was established in 1980, replacing a closed U.S. ballistic submarine facility that had been based in Rota, Spain. In 1989, USS Tennessee was the first Trident submarine to arrive at the facility. Another Trident training facility is based in Bangor, Wash.

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