Friday, November 13, 2015

Last dive for the USS Albuquerque

Dick Brown, Navy League New Mexico Council
11 November 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Around the world, around the clock, our young undersea warriors stand ready to defy any enemy. They are America’s defensive mainstay, the “away” team, professional submariners who are keeping us safe and secure.
This Veterans Day is a most appropriate time to recognize our submariners’ phenomenal accomplishments, meeting every challenge, exceeding every expectation, all the while isolated in their captive steel hulls.
It is also an appropriate time to salute one select group of submariners – the officers and crew of the good ship USS Albuquerque. Two weeks ago, I had the good fortune to ride this aging nuclear submarine on her final underway – a 1,385-nautical-mile submerged transit up the West Coast.
As a Cold War submarine veteran, I had the honor of sounding the klaxon diving alarm – ah-oo-gah, ah-oo-gah. It was dive number 1075 when Albuquerque slipped below the horizon for the very last time.
USS Albuquerque is “going out of business.” She has been taken out of service and will be decommissioned – retiring at the top of her game – sometime next year.
Her final voyage began just after sunrise from Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego. She navigated through the Channel Islands off southern California, cruised past Los Angeles, Monterey and San Francisco, and quietly steamed along the coasts of Oregon and Washington, hundreds of feet below daylight.
On occasion, she came up to periscope depth to snag message traffic.
On Day 5, Albuquerque surfaced off the Olympic Peninsula – ah-oo-gah, ah-oo-gah, ah-oo-gah. She entered Juan de Fuca Strait under navy-gray skies, typical of the Northwest.
It was a 24-hour surface transit as she navigated through narrow passages and goosenecks to her final berth at Naval Station Kitsap in Bremerton, across the Puget Sound from Seattle.
It is here where this combat veteran will await her turn in the scrapping and recycling process at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard – an inglorious end to a glorious ship.
During the six-day run, I spent time with the awesome crew – the heart and soul of the ship – mostly in Control at the diving station, fire control station and quartermaster station, but I also sat in on watches in the “sonar shack,” the empty torpedo room and auxiliary machinery spaces.
It was the perfect opportunity to interact with the crew. And it renewed my appreciation for today’s modern submariner.
Most of these young professionals are in their early 20s. They are highly skilled, courteous and absolutely dedicated to their jobs.
Their commanding officer is Capt. Don Tenney. He has the utmost respect and confidence of his officers and crew, which exhibited great teamwork and an exuberant sense of duty during the transit.
Even jovial short-timers maintained a sharp edge.
Most of the crew will eventually be assigned to other submarines and shore commands where they will continue Albuquerque’s legacy. These sailors have raised the bar in American submarine operations.
Albuquerque’s heritage will transcend other submarine crews and commands throughout our Submarine Force, for it is true – old submarines produce new generations of submariners.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the other part of our Submarine Force – the families who are also making sacrifices while their sailors are at sea, often for six or seven months at a time.
On this final voyage, I felt like I was a member of the crew. It was an honor and a privilege to go back to sea with these fine submariners.
USS Albuquerque will be remembered long after her last dive. Albuquerqueans can be very proud of her 33 years of service to our Navy, our city, our state and our nation.
To the veterans of all of our Armed Forces, thank you for your service.

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