698 Legends: MM1(SS) McGann

Editor’s Note: I want to thank Russ Woods, ICC/SS USN (Ret) for keeping the memory alive with another great candid eye-witness reflection about one of the original USS Bremerton SSN 698 sailors.

This is a republication of an original posted in January 2017 in effort to consolidated some relevant 698 history and sea-stories in the bremertonreuion.net website.

If you would like to submit an “unclassified” 698 sea story for publication, please contact me, Challen Yee, for assistance.

 

MM1(SS) Michael Riley McGann

By Russ Woods

SSN698: Coming of Age

Blog Editor’s notes: This blogpost article was originally titled as “SSN698: An American Classic”. The term “American Classic”, in reference to the USS Bremerton, made a sensation in social media by then Bremerton Commanding Officer, CDR Wes Bringham, in the Kitsap Sunvideo published on February 28, 2016. This is a republication with a few minor revisions of the original article published in 2016.

This is the second article by contributing writer Russ Woods, a 698 Plankowner, who offers his insights to life on the Bremertonin the early days as she began her ocean going journey out of the shipyards. Although we in the early generations of 698 crews did not refer to our boat as the BadFish, I believe, Russ really offers this as a token of respect to the later crews and her cadre of submariners who were responsible for taking her deep in the best interests of the nation. 

Not only does Russ Woods offer valuable crew member insights of the early years of the Bremertonbut he also offers it with a certain retrospective sharpness, humility and self-disclosure that I appreciate as a fellow submariner and shipmate.

EastPacmanningbridge1
The new shining star of the US Navy’s submarine fleet, USS Bremertonarriving in Bremerton, Washington, Fall 1982. Image courtesy of Donald Jones, Plankowner, USS Bremerton.

 

 

USS BREMERTON SSN 698: AN “AMERICAN CLASSIC”

By Russ Woods

In my time I served in three different submarines: Bremerton, Henry M. Jackson and Michigan. I was fortunate enough to be a Plankowner in Bremertonand Henry M. Jackson.

I must confess in my youth I did not demonstrate the affection for my Submarine as I seem to these days. I was just as quick to make comments like “This boat sucks” or “I hate this boat” as many of my shipmates did at one time or another. Case in point “C.A.R.T.” – If you were there you know what this means.

How naïve I and we were. As many of you have experienced or at least heard, the ’98 boat was a problem child. She was impudent and cantankerous. She did not seem to want to come out of the gate. We, my Plankowner shipmates and I, collectively through hard work, inspiring dedication and endurance of significant hardships brought her out. We were also one of the last to hear the phrase “Rig for Rickover”. Those who were there know exactly what that means.

How were we to know then we were serving in a history-making Warship? The first clue should have been her maiden voyage around the southern tip of Africa and into the Indian Ocean, where she performed flawlessly while we troublemakers steered her into troubled waters and performed sneaky spy stuff on the unsuspecting Soviets and the hapless Libyans motoring around in shallow waters that they felt they were the masters of. Yea, not so, says Badfish 698.

Then a short few months later our girl goes out on a pleasure cruise to visit her namesake city and allow us steely eyed denizens a “fun run” to reward us for our great service to America. But in an instant the Badfish phone rang and Uncle Sugar needed us to re-think our priorities and turned our “fun run” into a Spec-Op. And of course our thoroughbred answered the call and hit full stride on our run to the Pacific North West to counter Ivan’s nefarious plans. She made history then by becoming the fastest submarine in the fleet and by extension the fastest in the world.

The Captain’s log from commissioning forward reads of one challenging exploit after another that our girl accepted and excelled at.

When I reflect back on my sometimes crappy attitude that at times I demonstrated I feel a strong pang of regret deep inside my soul. I am hopeful any of my shipmates who occasionally shared my bad behavior have been fortunate enough to feel remorse for their wicked tongue that blasphemed against what is now our pride.

She is now beyond a shadow of a doubt the finest of the 688 class. Testimony to the professionalism of her first august crew and every single crewman who has served in her since. We my shipmates own a part of history. No matter what those evil yard birds do to her after she is finally decommissioned, she will always belong to the Ages. Her name will be there at the top of the list of longest serving submarines in our country’s history. Our great grandchildren and beyond will see her name in Jane’s fighting Ships. They will be able to say with pride, “My great-grandfather served in her.”

Yes, any of us who besmirched her name even once should feel justly ashamed. Because USS BremertonSSN 698 was taking us all on a ride in history. Marking us as a very privileged group. A brotherhood of the Badfish, an “American Classic”.

russwoodsRuss Woods,Plankowner, back in the day.

 

 

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LOOKING FORWARD

USS Bremerton, the most senior commissioned submarine in the United States Navy, is currently at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard preparing for Decommissioning.

 

SAVE THE 698

Join the Movement. Are you passionate about preserving the USS Bremerton in any way shape or form after her decommissioning for the benefit of the public and of naval history? You are invited to a new closed group forum on Facebook “SaveThe698” to be involved in public discussion related to Saving 698. You can see the group site by clicking HERE.

Copyright © 2019 bremertonreunion.net

Bremerton – Keyport 2021

photo source: navalunderseamuseum.org

For those of you unfamiliar with the Bremerton, WA area, the Naval Undersea Museum at Keyport is along Port Orchard Bay, 11 miles due north of the City of Bremerton.

Since most of the submarines being decommissioned, including USS Bremerton, are situated in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in a security zone known and the Controlled Industrialized Area (CIA), access to the public is off limits.  Therefore, it is virtually certain, ceremonies will be held apart from the submarine. In regards to the actual ceremony’s location, it is highly probable that it will be held at Keyport where other boat’s have held their DECOM events.

The Naval Undersea Museum at Keyport (image source: navalunderseamuseum.org).

The latest word regarding the Bremerton is that the Navy will sponsor a Decommissioning ceremony. In the lives of some boats,  there are two separate events, an Inactivation and a Decommissioning (DECOM).

DECOM will be the one and last official ceremonial event in Bremerton’s service to the United States. The timing is based on shipyard schedules and key elements of the work involved. In a recent article, it is estimated by CDR Chris Lindberg, 698’s Commanding Officer, that Spring of 2021 is the period that SSN 698 will Decommission.

Commissioned in March 1981, the good ol’ BadFish is looking to make an amazing 40 year run. 40 years! The first U.S. Navy submarine destined to achieve that milestone. Get ready to hoist your glasses with your shipmates, family and friends, that deserves a grande celebration – as bittersweet as it may be.

The BadFish Beat

A fresh buzz surrounds the USS Bremerton community with the mention CDR Lindberg’s target date. Many of the navy alumni, submariners who have called Bremerton their home, have often expressed that one of the best boats if not the best boat they have ever served on was the Bremerton, a fine testament to their shipmates and to the commanding officers they served under.

Last year, meeting up with the boat before she went into the CIA, affectionately known as “Deep Shipyard”, caught many 698 alumni off guard. The sudden  change in operational orders of the boat, coming straight off a West-Pac to go into the yards for DECOM, was game only for the maniac efforts of the most nimble reunioners ready for rapid deployment.

Many who attended were connected through Facebook which made communication in the fast moving situation feasible. Even so, for this event that was almost conjured out of thin air, we final-mustered a group of over 100 BadFish supporters who were willing to divide into four groups over a 3-day period to take one last reminiscent walk across the well-traveled decks and ladders of the fast-attack submarine.

 

Get your non-Facebook using Shipmates to Act Now

Over the next year we need to get interested alumni who are not members of Facebook onto our contact list.  If you know any alumni who wants to get a periodic update for reunion news, please email Master Chief Steve Everett at his email:  southzvi@gmail.com (Subject Line: 698 Email List).

Please also provide your:

  • rate/rank/dept 
  • which years served on 698
  • mailing address (email and postal) and
  • phone number 
  • Surviving family members are also welcomed to send their contact info

Please Note: EMAIL outside of Facebook, is preferred to keep costs down, but if you do not even have email, text messaging is low cost alternate. If you are actually still living in the stone age and has neither e-mail or text message ability, we’ll still do our duty to keep you informed the best we can using the postal service.

Now, we’ve got the Navy time-honored event on the horizon – DECOM. We expect to have room to maneuver our personal schedules to get into position; in the meantime, we hope the Navy will avoid doing any Crazy Ivans with their scheduling. The exact date for DECOM is TBA.

Some people were concerned that the ceremony itself will be a restricted affair in regards to security, location and audience size. At this time, it appears none of these factors will be an issue.

This website was developed particularly for those who are not on social media but have access to the internet. So tell your Facebook-hating shipmates to get their email to Master Chief or at least tell them to subscribe to this website to get important updates.

Stock illustration from Wikipedia, note the VLS Second-Flight mods which are not installed on First-Flight 688s like the American Classic.

SIGNIFICANT  & OFTEN UNREPORTED DATES:

08 MAY 1976: KEEL LAID
22 JUL 1978 LAUNCHED
28 MAR 1981 COMMISSIONED
11 JUL 1981 DEPARTS GROTON

28 OCT 1981 Reports to Homeport PEARL HARBOR

18 AUG 1998 Reports to Homeport SAN DIEGO
16 SEP 2003 Reports to Homeport PEARL HARBOR
27 APR 2018 Arriving in BREMERTON to begin inactivation/DECOM process

 

For more information about the museum at Keyport, please click on this link NAVALUNDERSEAMUSEUM

 

Source photos for Naval Undersea Museum at Keyport: http://www.navalunderseamuseum.org

Copyright © 2019 bremertonreunion.net

Captains Log USS Bremerton June 2019

Important News from the CO’s Log of the Bremerton

Bremerton-Olympic Peninsula Council Navy League of the US

It is hard to believe it has already been 6 months in command!  The USS Bremerton has completed the first of its kind Submarine Layup Availability in preparations for completing the Decommissioning in 2021.

The crew of the BREMERTON has been busy.  We had 5 Sailors and 1 Officer complete their qualifications in Submarines in the last 5 months.  This was accomplished while completing the first step of our inactivation process ahead of time and under budget.  I am looking forward to finishing our last 2 sailors in submarines qualifications. These will be the last to ever qualify onboard the American Classic. In addition to working to complete the availability our sailors have been busy supporting the community.  On earth day ~40 sailors helped cleaned up the Stephenson Canyon park and the First Class Petty Officer Associations volunteered at Viking Fest.

Additionally we frocked 5 sailors who advanced during the last…

View original post 182 more words

Bremerton’s “Annie”

ANNIE

“Annie” and USS Bremerton SSN698

By Russ Woods, Plankowner, USS Bremerton

(Editor’s Note: This is a reposted and revised article consolidating USS Bremerton SSN 698 specific articles on this reunion website).

OK, shipmates this video has been around a day or two. Here’s a couple of trivia questions for you. In the video there is a moment where the diving klaxon is sounding. This is a non-stock klaxon with the name “Annie” painted on it. What is the origin of that klaxon? And who is Annie? I will provide the answers after a respectable amount of time has passed.

 

Watch the video by Josh Farley, Kitsap Sun reporter, and see and hear Annie in action (about time marker 1:07) and also meet Captain Wes Bringham, the originator of the popular nickname “The American Classic”

 

 

[No one in the FB group could provide the right answer, so Russ Woods enlightened us…]

 

 

OK, my Bremertonbrothers it is as I suspected. The history of Annie has not been past on. Frankly I was very surprised to see her still onboard and being used. Kinda got a little thrill when I saw her in the video.

Most everyone should have heard if they did not experience it first hand the labor pains (pun intended) Mother Navy experienced in giving birth to Bremerton. It was a struggle to all in Navy blue connected in any way to her. We were mostly complete in the EB shipyard. Days away from our first sea trials. We were “in service” and flying the commissioning pennant. Galley was open and then the bad welds were discovered along with the hangars made with high carbon steel.

For the younger members of this group it was the design of our boat and her sisters to be able to withstand 100 G’s of instantaneous impact. I.E.. a close aboard nuclear detonation. The high carbon steel hangers would have shattered instantly in that situation creating much hate and discontent to us lowly swabs.

So after serious thought and verbal jousting between Capt. Anderson, the Admiral at the time whose name escapes me and the nefarious P. Takis Valiotus the head of Electric Boat the decision was made to change all of the suspect hangers which numbered in the heaps. And virtually every weld on the boat was re-inspected and either completed or redone as needed.

To facilitate this we as a crew were moved off the boat and into get this mobile homes and Winnebagos. We were virtually living on the Electric Boat shipyard. Only watchstanders and supervisory persons from the boat were allowed onboard.

Here is where the creative minds of young sailors were allowed to run free.

Onboard at this time was IC1(SS) John R. Wollseifen “Wolf” to us. I at the time was a snot-nosed, wet behind the ears IC3 and as Wolf was fond of saying to stupid to be afraid of electricity. Anywho with nothing but time on our hands Wolf and I would go exploring in the shipyard. We would visit the different “Codes” just to see what they did and perhaps what we could scavenge.

Wolf is a gregarious fellow that can engage anyone in conversation. In our ventures out he spotted this diving Klaxon. He inquired from the shop foreman if it indeed was a Klaxon of the “aaooooga” variety. And by golly it was. He engaged the foreman in conversation for a bit before exclaiming how neat it would be if we could have a Klaxon like that for Bremerton.

Now I cannot be sure if the shop foreman could care less about this device since it was not going to ever be installed as stock equipment on another boat produced there or if he felt sorry for us swabs who were enduring the rigors of an extended shipyard stay. Bottom line, he gave Wolf the Klaxon and out the door we hustled.

Now instead of heading back to the boat as I suspected we would do, Wolf says, “Come with me I got an idea.” Over to the paint shop we go. He spies a lady painter he had made friends with previously, and no, close your dirty minds, he did not know her in the marital way. What she had going for her was she was more than a person who spread paint. She also had the artistic hand.

Wolf asked her to paint the name “Annie” on the horn of the Klaxon. Annie was the name of his wife.

The lady painter broke out her brush and some black paint and in short order had “Annie” scrolled across the horn. Wolf was just beside himself in his pride and satisfaction. I was too, although I was nothing more than a tag along infected with his pride in what we had.

We brought our prize back to Bremertonand there would need to be some wiring done as she needed 120v to operate. Hence the power cord we installed in her.

The skipper was pleased with Annie but we were told when guests were on board, i.e. Admirals and such, we would keep her under wraps. When we did use her the COW had to hold the 1MC mike to the horn and push the button to sound the Klaxon. It was old school and we were as far as we knew the only 688 boat to have one. She was still there and in use when I left Bremerton in 1983.

As I said I was tickled to see her in use in the video above. And that is the story of how Annie came to Bremertonand got her name. So if Wolf is present when Bremertonis decommissioned I would hope he could have Annie. We will see.

 

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Looking Forward

USS Bremerton is currently preparing for decommissioning in Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. The average lifespan of a submarine is expected to be about 30 years and Bremerton is nearing 40 years. The plans for Decommissioning the American Classic is under consideration, the dates are TBD.

 

Save the 698 

Are you passionate about preserving the USS Bremertonin any way shape or form after her decommissioning for the benefit of the public and of naval history? You are invited to a new closed group forum on Facebook “SaveThe698” to be involved in public discussion related to Saving 698. You can see the group site by clicking HERE.

 

Editors Note:

This is a republication of an article originally published on June 29, 2018 consolidating USS Bremerton SSN 698 specific articles on this reunion website.

Russ Woods is a USS Bremerton SSN 698 Plankowner and I want to thank him for sharing his heartfelt insights.

Republished with the permission of Russ Woods.  CY

The Anatomy of a Reunion

Looking Back

A year ago this Memorial Day weekend in 2018, over a hundred old hands and their family members converged on Bremerton, Washington to say goodbye to the U.S.S. Bremerton (SSN 698) as she was preparing to take an expedited trip into the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard – a seemingly impromptu change of heart by the U.S. Navy despite years of nuclear fuel remaining in her General Electric S6G nuclear powerplant.

Coming in hot straight and normal from Pearl Harbor, under the command of Bremerton’s last sea-going CO, CDR Travis Zettel, with the first sea-going CO, Thomas Anderson as a special rider and guest, the BadFish arrived on April 27, 2018, in Bremerton pulling up to the semi-public aircraft carrier piers. With fan’s of the American Classicwaiting pierside and a Navy band to add to the festivities a month of transition lay ahead for the Lucky 698 and everyone around her, including alumni wanting to get a last chance to step on the decks of the Ol’ Gal.

698 and her crew had just completed their final West-Pac and with their stand-down eliminated had orders to make haste to take our thoroughbred, the fastest U.S. Navy submarine on record, to her final destination to become part of the beau-coup-multi-million dollar pipeline of American nuclear powered submarines to be decommissioned.

Her last ocean voyage was complete with a torpedo room full of household goods in lieu of her standard armament of ship-killing MK48 ADCAPs, the crew suffering from a form of bureaucratic whiplash and the need for some stand down. So it was a trying time, a time of urgency, confusion and another day in the Navy for the Bremerton before getting hard at work preparing the boat for entry into the Deep Shipyard.

In a mad rush to organize a Farewell, or some may say, for the Bremerton,a “Coming Home” party, organizers of the reunion on the front lines had to run the gauntlet of “why do you want to see a nearly 40 year old submarine for, when there are a host of shiny new submarines for tour?”

Things were not looking good in early May 2018 as organizers had to deal with an understandably indifferent environment with the work involved trying to secure tours of the boat with the real pre-shipyard work schedule in front of them. Moreover, the boat was preparing for a command change of the COB and XO, in other words, even more instability for alumni to make it an uphill effort.

Planners of a 2018, USS Bremerton Reunion arrived to the battle scene beat up and worn down as two attempts to organize a reunion in Las Vegas got derailed, once in early 2018 when hotel management decided to demand early payment for the reservation block and then the night before a full scale promotion to re-attack Vegas (the Reunion that never was, that almost became, but could yet happen in the future) was aborted. The Vegas death knell was preceded by a message around early April by someone in the know, advising that it would be a not a good idea to have a Vegas reunion in light of the sudden change to the boat’s schedule. The necessity to act on purposely ambiguous information became the modus operandi.

So here we were, a mass of 698 alumni waiting for the word on what to do, suddenly wondering if we needed to flip our lives upside down to gather to see the ol’ gal one more time.

 

Enter the bizarre carnival ride

The mad house on the run with the ad-hoc 698 intergenerational Reunion Committees on one hand, the Officers and crew wanting to get off the boat and/or jump through the hoops necessary to meet an aggressive shipyard entry date, finding suitable meeting dinner facilities (we almost ended up at a private golf course on one hand,  a cowboy BBQ honky-tonk dance hall on the other, and almost would have had the boutique Conference Center banquet hall if our numbers didn’t soar majestically over 80), getting commitments from hotels, the surrealistic composing of a dinner event and all its host details (not including those we missed ;)).and then… COMSUBGRU9 (CSG9).

I’ve been told by lawyers, pastors, and CSG9 that I am a loose cannonball… or something synonymous to someone who needs to stop causing trouble. If it wasn’t for Captain Alan Beam (CO #3), our man in Havana, so to speak, there would be no one they could interface with. Captain Beam knows how to ride that storm.

 

The end of nearly a week of frantic effort, those few days felt like a couple of weeks, when we almost gave it up. As organizers, I knew we needed as much time as possible to get a big reunion organized, pushing the establishment, it seemed virtually impossible to get a reunion with tours of the boat to happen. With several late night talks with a trusted friend who had insights to the pulse of the boats preparing for shipyard, it did not seem we were going to get quarter. A bunch of old-timers, pushing our own agenda just didn’t seem like we were high on anyone’s priority. It looked grim – that’s what things look like when you’re about to throw in the towel. Grim.

Then something life changing happened on May 2, 2018.

What not many people in my circles knew, is I was very close to whole process of my sister being sick with cancer and then in the hospital, early in the morning, surrounded by family, she took her last breath early on the morning of May 2.

After spending some time with family afterwards, and then reflecting on life, I realized that I had to go where it seemed obvious with the reunion. As you get older and you’ve seen various opportunities slip by, you begin to live your life (when you’re cognizant enough) to live life like it was your second chance. Maybe not before and maybe not after, but the bearings are matching … now.

 

The Captain

In this new era, the Captain of a U.S. Navy warship still has a status to be reckoned with. Although the quarters are cramped inside a submarine, there’s still a deference required between a Captain and everyone else.

I knew I had to communicate directly with the Commanding Officer, CDR Travis Zettel in order to resolve whether to proceed or not. So with respect and humility, I wrote an email letter directly to the CO of the Bremerton and requested help, knowing that his crew comes first as well as the needs of the Navy.

At that time we only had 12 confirmed Alumni, do or die, ready to travel to attend a reunion.

That was the first time I heard an affirmative answer to our request. A response from the Captain that begins with “We would be honored…” gives you a sweet kernel of joy that won’t go out no matter what the obstacles and that was enough to set the GREEN LIGHT on the process in my mind and in our wall pushing efforts through CSG9  that would ensue over the next few weeks. Although we would still encounter obstacles galore, especially as the head count began to take off like a Subroc, the validated hope offered by Captain Zettel we will always be grateful for.

This was not the last time Captain Zettel got involved when we got into a jam to accommodate our reunion attendee needs. It would suffice to say, that the Captain really helped us old-timers and guests to feel welcome by the boat. As Captain of the Bremerton, he did us a great favor by being as gracious as a host could be opening his command for what would become over 100 attendees wanting to make our last passage through our beloved Bremerton.

CDR Travis Zettel (left) hands over the O’Kane cribbage board to CDR Benjamin Sylph, CO of Olympia SSN-717

 

It’s a Volunteer Outfit

In order to take on the mass effort to qualify in a few weeks to setup this reunion operation, we received some incredible help from shipmates, checking potential venues for our dinner event, from organizing the dinner and the details, getting the pulse of different generations of alumni, and to the relationship between former Bremerton Captains and CSG9. Each of you who took part in the process really deserve some open praise for your efforts in this volunteer fire drill, everyone from Pearl Harbor to Washington, D.C. I hesitate to begin to list not wanting to leave anyone out. The effort starts with my shipmates, the planners and volunteer help, but also their spouses and the participation of their families to help the spirit of the Bremerton live on into the next generations.

We also want to give special thanks the former Mayor of Bremerton, WA, Patty Lent and her husband who we had the distinct honor of their attending our special banquet dinner at the Kitsap Conference Center.  They are friends of Captain Beam and very strong supporters of everything related to the USS Bremerton, including the effort to establish a memorial to the boat. She gave a noteworthy and inspiring speech expressing her avid support of the 698.

We had to divide into several groups in order for the boat not to be overloaded with tourists.This was one of 4 big  groups. Photo courtesy of mystery cam.

 

The First 3 seagoing Captains of Bremerton, Thomas Anderson, Douglas Wright and Alan Beam. Also in attendance were COs Ronald Cox and Thomas Zwolfer.

Scanning the Horizon

Now that the reunion of May 2018 is a year behind us, we are now looking forward to the next USS Bremerton SSN 698 Reunion.

We are in the early stages of planning for 2020.

This would be the 3 in series organized by this particular group of 698 shipmates, though the “group” per say is morphing as we get to know other who we did not serve in the same years on the boat with.
It’s important to note, we are not the only ones who have organized successful 698 Reunions and every time old shipmates get together to share in the comraderie and the memories, we consider those very important happening and events in the life blood of the 698 community.

What we’ve managed to accomplish in the course of two successfully completed reunions, one in Reno, NV in August 2016 and one in Bremerton, WA in 2018, was plan events that are non-profit, family-friendly, for the old and the young, and with times built in for the mandatory classic shipmate bull-session around the local watering hole.

 

Apprehensions of a First Time Reunioner

As we all were once a first time reunioner, we know we each can have a lot of apprehensions about coming back into your “old” world, in some cases, from over 36 years ago. “Will I somehow not fit in or not feel accepted or welcomed?” These are some of the abstract thoughts that could course through ones mind.

It’s been really amazing how attendees have felt at home and at ease in record time. Though, yes, it can be a bit of a nervous experience at first.

In general, we’ve found that we’ve all managed to get older, slower, and not quite so rambunctious but at the same time remarkably the same people we have ever been and there’s still a fire in every submariner waiting to be rekindled.

During the “first” reunion, we embraced every rating. Some guys may have thought that sonar guys planning the event would somehow ostracize other ratings and other departments… no such thing. Everyone was welcomed, felt included and appreciated. The programmed event also seemed a little out of the ordinary for guys who would be happy to ship-talk around a watering hole, but as one attendee mentioned, “I was blown away by how well it worked out, I think you really set a high standard.” (Thanks to the event coordinating knack of shipmate and volunteer service of Reno resident Rich Crombie).

During the “second” reunion, we had strong representations from different generations from Plankowners to past year 2000. While we spent the majority of our time catching up with our former running mates, we all recognized that we shared the same heritage and were glad to build bonds with everyone who called the Bremerton home. Everyone has their own important stories from their experiences and your Navy careers and what you’ve managed to get yourself into after the service – you have something that needs to be expressed and what a unique way than you being part of a gathering with your fellow shipmates. There’s a spirit and camaraderie in our connection through the submarine we called home.

As planners, we are becoming more aware of these dynamics and will do the best we can to build on the strengths and learn from our mistakes as we go forward into planning the next Reunion. Each event has its own unique challenges to overcome.

The price of the event is pretty much at cost, your volunteer shipmates who have been organizing these reunions are doing it as a non-profit. One of the ways we keep the price of the event down is we will try to support of veteran friendly establishments, and this may lead us to areas that have an affinity for veterans, especially submarine veterans.

 

In 2020, we are looking areas that would be fun to travel, have broad appeal to all generations of Bremerton shipmates, be relevant to the Silent Service and the Bremerton specifically to give the reunion as much inherent meaning for every attendee as possible. Our destination for 2020 is intended to build on top of our proud heritage and rekindle the friendships that were established so many, or not so many years ago.

Photo courtesy of Eric Festor

Some of our first reunions, organized by different groups of shipmate were done out of convenience to the organizers, for example, a farm in Michigan (Larry Gray and Eric Festor, organizers) and Reno, Nevada (Rich Crombie, Jeff Marcey and Challen Yee, organizers) while not Navy towns, worked out because a substantial amount of planning and organizing where provided by the local resident shipmate. These reunions were very successful both well attended by the generation of shipmates close to the organizers.

Ahead of the curve and coming in first, Tony Rothenfluch organized an amazing reunion in New Orleans in 2013.

“Reunion in New Orleans” – Photo courtesy of Richard Boltin

If there were other large gatherings, please let me know.

Part of our event is a “formal” reunion dinner, usually on the first night when the bulk of the attendees are expected to arrive. We offer a chance to come together as a Bremerton family, to honor our distinguished service, give everyone a chance to introduce or reintroduce themselves, have an opportunity for some mild entertainment and/or guest speaker(s), be part of a group and individual photos, and eat some food with a no host bar in tow.

August 2016 Reunion in Reno (photo by Leona Lee)

We like to think that no one needs to be left out as long as they can get to the reunion site and find affordable accommodations. We look to find a convenient and reasonable quality hotel to find a block of rooms so guys don’t have far to walk back to their rooms. We understand some shipmates can work into the reunion schedule to and at the same time, work out their own accommodations if that suits them.

Depending on the venue, we may have a variety of tour type events scheduled which can work out well to add more memories of doing things together that are age friendly or handicap person accessible. Not all of us are spring chickens like some of you young studs, yep, we’re not as young as much as we were back to those glory days! (the Bremerton, until recently, was the longest serving active-duty submarine at over 37 years, having just last year handing off the honors to the Olympia).

The on-going crypto-drama in the background is the mystery surrounding the Decommissioning schedule of 698. It’s ironic, a year ago we had hopes she would be able to serve for another few years and now we’re a bit piewacked regarding the remaining significant public event that could influence our decisions regarding the time and place of a reunion.

The Decommissioning Ceremony will include formal invitations to all the original crew members (at least those whose addresses are known), which will likely be many of the people who would would also attend a general bi-annual reunion. The event should also be open to all alumni. Since planning for travel any purpose is often difficult, especially for the purposes of Navy ceremony and reunions, the planners need to respect the eventual date set for Decommissioning. However, we’ve heard nothing regarding this yet and are tentative at the moment of where the mission of the reunion will be set.

Our preferences, since we had just had a super-reunion in Bremerton, WA, last year is to target another city far away from Washington State for 2020. But the Navy has a way of sticking it in your face just when you get something else going. Welcome to your lifelong association with the Service.

This brew is courtesy of Plankowner Senior Chief Donald Jones

Special Shout-Out

Before I shuttle you off here, I want to give heartfelt credit to the small bands and individual shipmates around the country and even in foreign lands who are quietly getting together with other shipmates without the big billboard on your head.

In particular, I wanted give a BZ to those who have afforded the time and effort to serve your fellow shipmates, helping those of our Bremerton crew who are limited in their ability to move about the country due to difficult times or ill-health. I know that the heroes of our Silent Service are looking down upon you approvingly on this Memorial Day Weekend 2019.

 

 

Please note: I had to crank this out on a schedule, so please forgive for typos, nautical or other gaffs, and oversights. Contact me with any additional, comments and feedback.

 

copyright bremertonreunion.net 2019

THE BOND WE SHARE

 

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By Russ Woods

Our grand lady, the ’98 boat recently arrived in the city of Bremerton. She arrived there to complete her service to our country. She takes with her depending on the individual sailor either a small or large piece of our heart. Testimony to that was the arrival to Bremerton of a fair number of her boys to bid farewell. I, unfortunately, had a family member to assist and had to make the choice to deny myself this pleasure. My heart was most assuredly in Bremerton with my shipmates.

Who are we? The boys of the Bremerton. Where do we come from? What motivated us to leave our homes and our families and by fate arrive onboard the Bremerton?

The answers to these questions are as varied and diverse as we are. Regardless of the answers to these questions, we all arrived at one time or another to do our duty assigned to this boat. When we arrived that was the family we came to know and dare I say, love.
I could fill pages on my gypsy life from birth to arrival in Bremerton. I will spare you that. The bottom line for me I am an Alabama boy with a good ole boy upbringing involving copious outdoor activities and sports involvement. I was a terrible student in school and learned rickey tick in sub school the submarine force was not for the academically challenged. To survive required extreme determination not to lose, the patience of my superiors and the assistance of a few very close shipmates.

And speaking of very close shipmates. In seeing the photos shared by those in attendance at the most recent Bremerton soirée it is obvious there is a camaraderie among all who served in her. But as we all know we developed and nurtured friendships with a few shipmates we seemed to gel with. At the time who they were, where they came from was not a deterrent, rather their differences in some cases enhanced our desire to know them and be connected.

My group if you will include a Brooklyn NY. fellow I should have had nothing in common with. He liked disco dancing and was quite good at it. He did not have a driver’s license and dressed pretty sharp. Another was a wannabe cowboy from Pennsylvania. He was not a drugstore cowboy that was all fake. He just loved the cowboy way and wanted to make it part of his lifestyle. Spending my high school years working a cattle ranch drew us together. That and the fact he was hilariously funny and could be counted on to say what he thunk. A skinny redhead from Indiana who humbly allowed his name to be reversed and ran with it. My crew included all of the junior cooks. A fisherman from Florida, A salty dog from Michigan, and an innocent waif from Manitowoc, Wisconsin. I will not try to include the full posse but you get my drift. Each and every one of us can describe a group like this.

I know from the photos described above that the boat sailors came together and many had not been together for decades. Despite this, you enjoined conversations as if it had been days since your last meet. Even ’98 sailors who had come from different times. Each thought of as a brother by the other. Regardless of background or personality. Immediately accepted as a brother.

This really hit home to me last week. In my work as a Facilities Director for a local school district, I attend a monthly meeting attended by the Directors from the other area school districts. After our meeting, we go to a local eatery and have lunch as a group. It is great fun and there are good conversations. I notice in almost every lunch we tend to gravitate when sitting down to those we share the most in common with. I can tell you a boatload (pun intended) about the couple I tend to sit with. How many guns they have, what calibers, where they shoot. You know important stuff like that. The fellows on the other end of the table. Not so much. I usually know their names but sometimes struggle with what district they represent. I can still tell you so much about my shipmates from the ’98 boat but these men I see regularly I know very little. It does not take a brain surgeon to understand with my peers today we have no sense of shared sacrifice. We go home daily to our families, our focus is there. Not on our fellow Directors.

To travel back in time, how many of us in our time together stopped for even a second to comprehend the searing impression our shipmates were making upon us? The eternal bond our journey was creating. The diversity of personalities and backgrounds we brought to the table and how regardless of our differences we were coalescing into a hardened group that could not be torn apart even by decades of separation and lack of communication.

The main ingredient in this formula was, of course, our lady USS Bremerton.

I have written before of my own shortcomings in my appreciation for her at the time I was serving in her. As I have observed from afar the recent festivities in Bremerton and the obvious love my shipmates have for her and each other it reinforces in me the absolute privilege that was afforded to me and us by making the simple choice to join the Navy and volunteer for submarine duty. USS Bremerton SSN 698 is the bond we share. I thank God and the hand of fate that took me there. Just sayin’ ROLL TIDE!

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Editors Note:

Russ Woods is a USS Bremerton SSN 698 Plankowner and I want to thank him for sharing his heartfelt insights.

Republished with the permission of Russ Woods.  CY