One group of sailors departed the seas to travel to middle America this past week.
Despite being a landlocked state, Nebraska has a submarine namesake, the USS Nebraska, which travels coast to coast for the United States military. And on Thursday, six of the crew members made their first visit to the state behind the submarine’s name.
The group visited with veterans at Beatrice’s American Legion and toured Beatrice Bakery among other things before continuing their trip in Lincoln.
Lieutenant Thomas Sledge, a communications officer for the submarine, said they were planning to visit Lincoln’s ROTC unit, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and watch Saturday’s Husker football game.
“It’s the trip of the year,” Sledge said. “Everyone wants to get their name on the list. I know a lot of these guys have been trying to go for three or four years.”
While in Beatrice, the group met with Michael Policky's eighth-grade civics students at Beatrice Middle School.
Sledge told the students that a 150-person crew serves on the USS Nebraska, spending roughly three months at a time out of port.
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“Our primary mission is we remain undetected from anybody,” Sledge said. “That’s any commercial vessels as well as our own forces. They cannot know where we are, and our job is to remain hidden from them. … What that does is it allows other countries to hopefully not attack us, knowing that they have [submarines] out in the ocean that can destroy them back at any time if they were to escalate their forces. So by us not doing our job, we are doing our job by essentially just remaining survivable.”
The submarine itself is 560 feet long and weighs 18,750 metric tons when submerged and can travel over 29 miles an hour.
It was christened in 1992 by Patricia Exon, wife of former U.S. senator and Nebraska Gov. James Exon. The boat served in the Atlantic Ocean until 2005, but currently its home port is in Bangor, Washington.
The USS Nebraska is an all-male crew, but Sledge told the female students to not let that discourage them if they’re interested in joining the military.
“They have been slowly going through and retrofitting a lot of our boats to support an integrated crew,” Sledge said. “We are actually one of the last, I think, three boats out of our class that have not integrated yet. So we’re kind of the oddballs out right now, being the all-male crew.”
Torpedoman’s Mate Petty Officer Second Class William Hawn said he enjoyed the tour of Beatrice because it reminded him of his hometown in Wisconsin.
“Aversely, being from a larger town, it’s great to see people everywhere saying hello, waving at you and just interacting with you,” Sledge said.