We are looking forward to the last few months of the commissioned time of the USS BREMERTON. Due to COVID concerns and the rate at which the state of Washington is slowly opening, I am shifting the Decommissioning ceremony to Tuesday, May 18th. This will be the last shift in the date. My goal is to be completed with all work requiring crew personnel by June 1st. We are planning to have the ceremony available via video recording, but we are hoping for an in person gathering as well. This will depend on the State and Navy requirements for COVID mitigation. I will provide updates as I have more information.
As we move forward, we are also taking a look back at the past year. I have the pleasure to announce our Sailor of the Year is ITS1 (SS) Tony Campbell and the Junior Sailor of the Year is TM2 (SS) Logan Houlot. ITS1 (SS) Campbell was selected due to his relentless drive for excellence in all facets of his support of Bremerton and the combined crew with USS Jacksonville. He led the merger of Radio division and LAN division into the new combined division, providing the blueprint for other commands to follow. His direct involvement and spearheading of establishing the new MWR gym equipment for use by command was vital to maintaining personnel readiness this last year. He is a true leader and consistently improves the command with his constant presence and focus on making the command better every day.
TM2 (SS) Houlot was selected for his command leadership in managing the day-to-day operations of Torpedo Division. He led the way in COVID mitigation of cleanliness of weapons that were handled by multiple watchstanders. His can do attitude and drive to set the example are what we expect and demand from our best.
As we look forward, I understand the importance of the USS BREMERTON in many of your hearts. For almost 41 years this submarine was home to many sailors who will forever have lasting memories of their time serving aboard her. I would like to remind you that, while the HY80 which surrounded you during your time aboard the BREMERTON protected you, the stories you have and share with each other and your loved ones are what will keep her memory alive long after she has been scrapped. Until next time I wish you fair winds and following seas.
On Tuesday February 23rd at 10 am HST, the Pacific Fleet Submarine Memorial Association will hold a formal ceremony to celebrate the completion of the renovation of our museum and campus. Due to restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, attendance at this ceremony is by invitation only. We regret that we cannot hold a larger event to mark this occasion, but we are hopeful that you will be able to visit in the near future.
We will live stream our opening ceremony on both Instagram and Facebook at the following links:
What we have, though specific details of the event have not been updated for several months is:
THE DECOM CEREMONY
DECOM will be held at KEYPORT NAVAL UNDERSEA MUSEUM on APRIL 16, 2021.
This is the latest official information and it has not yet been changed.
This is open to the public and will adhere to all of the social distancing rules that will be in effect at that time.
We do not know details yet of how the ceremony may be broadcasted via internet or other method.
However, as of January 2021, the MUSEUM IS CLOSED, but one would presume the DECOM ceremony would still be performed. The situation requires continued monitoring.
As for a DECOM ceremony being held near the boat… that time has long been gone. Basically, for those of you who are late to the game, that’s why Decom ceremonies for boats in Deep Shipyard are conducted at Keyport.
COVID RULE AFFECTED ACCOMODATIONS AND VENUES
Using the Fairfield Inn as a benchmark due to it’s proximity to the Horse and Cow and the waterfront district, we have a condition report as of January 5, 2021.
-BLOCK RESERVATIONS can be made for alumni at a rate of $104 per night for a room with a king size or two queens.
This from the Fairfield Inn group coordinator on Jan 5, 2021: ” For a your group in April, I can quote a rate of $104 per night for the rooms. For the room block we need a cut off date of about 30 days prior to your event, and any cancellations of the group due to Covid restrictions have no penalty. We do ask for 30 days notice of cancellation if possible. We are not requiring deposits for room blocks at this time. ”
Proposed block dates are Wednesday, April 14 through Monday, April 19. How long would you like to hang out?
There are recommended quarantine rules post inbound travel in place but they are not mandatory.
Group meeting areas are limited to 25% capacity. This is the general rule for all meeting spaces. For example the 120 group capacity meeting room at the Fairfield will be limited to 15 people with social distancing. I know that sounds like less than 25% but that’s what it comes to, a ball room could suffice for a welcome area, but not for a major gathering.
Across the board, establishments are subject to quarantine rules.
HORSE & COW and other local restaurants are limited to take out and outdoor social distanced dining when available.
Museums and even the USS Turner Joy (the Destroyer on the waterfront) are closed.
The Fairfield and the Hampton are under the same management, so details will be similar to both hotels.
Even the awesome breakfast buffet has been modified for social distancing some how.
Catering for a group event can be provided by the hotel from the tavern across the street called the AX & ARROW, which is a veteran owned establishment.
At the moment, I don’t see a whole lot of organizing for this event based on the current limitations.
The are no tours on submarines or on anything this time, no getting on base for fun, no late nights trying to get your base security credentials straightened out. No confrontations with Squadron, NBK Security, or any other control point.
Centralized accommodations would make it easy to gather.
A group photo is still important. Don’t forget. And don’t use a mission impossible camera.
A transportation plan is needed for the day of the DECOM ceremony.
-The number of people renting cars and the amount of parking at Keyport would be helpful info.
-Limo bus rental is a possibility since many will not have rental cars. A quick sampling of hired 10-30 passenger options range from $500-1500 or higher depending on the number and style of vehicle.
-LYFT – UBER
Don’t know about your State, but Washington and California, where I live, have similar COVID restrictions.
Personal considerations regarding health, living with any high-risk family members or roommates, your work’s quarantine policies may affect your decisions.
THIS IS THE SITUATION AS OF JANUARY 2021 Things can change, so this is what makes this a bit harder to manage or organize anything too ambitious. It’s possible to see the essentials of a reunion to meet with shipmates, albeit affected by rules of engagement in the public spaces.
Your ideas are welcomed.
THAT IS IT FOR THE SANE SIDE
P.S. WELCOME TO THE UNDERWORLD – THE UNDER THOUGHTS OF A REUNION PLANNER
Trying to develop a picture from a murky situation, when you just want to hear anything.
“SONAR-CONN -TALK TO ME, SONAR…”
Putting into words the current situation in regards to the upcoming DECOM of the USS Bremerton (SSN 698) is not something I’m gung-ho about but given I am a blogger with a light finger on the pulse of the 4-month period leading up to the April 2021 DECOM date, the dilemmas deserves some effort to unpack during this time of unparalleled and real complications.
So this is what you want the sonar supervisor of a writer to do sometimes, make subjective calls and reports to the CONN:
What I am going to write is not based on anything official, oh not at all, but just observing the international and national state of affairs, insight from shipmates who have either a better view of things than I do, and the blank responses from people which can mean more than saying nothing in particular.
For many of you who will look at this as sort of no holds barred go for broke attitude towards planning that parallels your pent up desire to party, un-shelter, or just plain explode, what I am going to write may sound like a restraining order. Yet, in either case, it can spur dialogue and ideas in these unconventional days we live.
“SONAR-CONN: COMMENCE REUNION PLANNING”
Planning an event like a reunion attached to a DECOM ceremony requires some known factors, things we usually take for granted in an open and law-abiding peacetime society, like:
Unrestricted group and individual travel
Access to military units and facilities
Direct and indirect support from the military
Unrestricted accommodations and meeting facilities
“SONAR-CONN: SECURE REUNION PLANNING”
“CONN-SONAR, AYE. GOING ACTIVE.”
Now, let’s be blunt. You don’t hear much about it with all the noise but in so many ways our military, our US Navy in particular with their long term deployments, is at a high state of alert and between internal and external threats and the restrictions based on health issues and/or political overreach, we have one difficult situation to plan anything, at least anything that you would expect to stick that rises to the level of an EPIC BASH.
It’s a sobering thought and one that puts DECOM ceremonies and reunions attached to them in a priority somewhere far below national security and operational readiness of all active duty personnel.
As another shipmate pointed out, submarine tours have long become a thing of the past in today’s ever tightening security environment, not to mention COVID, yea, the CCP virus, the possible operation altering virus is an unwanted enemy collaborator.
Moreover, the Badfish, is in DEEP SHIPYARD getting ready to have her atomic guts removed and the only people who can see her are hard-hatted googley-eyed aliens who are hovering with sinister intentions to our ol’ gal’s feminine figure. Hazardous work zone, no public access. Dig it? Those yellow and black cross striped signs keeping the creeps out.
If you as a retired 698 bubblehead weren’t caught stealing aboard the Navy Bus to tour the 698 when she was last seen tied up at NBK BREMERTON Pier D in 2018 during that slimmest of opportunities to see the American Classic in one piece, well, sorry, you missed it.
If you blinked too long when she arrived from Pearl then left for Puget-Sound Naval DEEP SHIPYARD, you missed the boat. Literally.
As one associated with reunion organization, I must believe, the reunion space will avail itself, if at all, close to the scheduled date on April 25th, it’s highly likely that any action taken will occur much like in 2018 – close into to the target, where the target solution is known, it cannot evade, the options are clearly defined and the immediate environmental conditions are unlikely to change. High probability mean less wasted effort although it’s likely to be like an emergency drill just like in 2018 or maybe worse, unless there’s not much to organize.
While we have little control of the national requirement for operational readiness in our volatile world, we can continue to assess the changes and effects of COVID restrictions and be prepared to move if there is any certainty closer to the planned date for DECOM.
Until the situation gets more clear, it will take more personal assessment (especially for any quarantine requirements affecting your work and travel plans), patience, flexibility, imagination, possible local organization on part of reunion participants, maybe a private date with your own bottle of your favorite brown liquid, and a crucifix pointed at the commie-controlled ZOOM software, as we take part in commemorating the formal ending of the Commissioned life of the Bremerton, a veteran of the COLD WAR.
If there’s anything to contradict what I’ve written, I’m sure I’ll get word. I’m sure you’ll tell me.
The heritage we share as members of the US Navy’s Silent Service: The New Year’s submariner story of leadership, teamwork, audaciousness, intelligence, and innovation right before Wahoo’s 3rd War Patrol. Raw nerves required.
Late in the morning on the last day of 1942, without ceremony, Dudley W. Morton took command of Wahoo. Back at the apartment my new captain told of the PCO school he had attended just before coming to Pearl.
“Commander Patterson and Hensel were our underway instructors, and while I was on the scope calling angles on the bow, reading the telemeter scale for the range, giving orders to the steersman for rudder and speed, whirling the ISWAS, and checking plot for the new course, the instructors would be making entries in their notebooks. After the approach, they’d compare my actions that were recorded in the Quartermaster’s Notebook with their recommendations. Because they could concentrate solely on conning, they almost always arrived at better submarine maneuvers and more quickly.”
Captain Morton paused, but only long enough to bring over a bottle of ale, and then continued.
“Now you’re going to be my new co-approach officer, not my assistant. You’ll make all of the approach and attack periscope observations, or on the TBT if we’re on the surface. I’ll conn Wahoo to the best attack position, and then you’ll fire the torpedoes.”
He paused again, and his serious countenance changed to the usual engaging smile as he added, “This way I’ll never get scared.”
This opportunity and sharing of responsibility was new within our submarine forces. I answered with a simple, “I appreciate your confidence, Captain,” and told him I was off to the Sperry to make a lazy susan for our ship models. I would need them to sharpen the ability to call angles on the bow quickly and accurately.
There’d be no fired oysters or tuna delight this evening, for we had all been invited to a New Year’s Eve party….
Regarding the “down the throat” shot, Dick O’Kane writes of the moments surrounding the firing of the final torpedo in Wewak Harbor:
…The destroyer continued her turn, completing three-quarters of a circle, and then headed down the still visible fan that had been left by our torpedo wakes. Their apex marked our firing position, and the enemy would know that a submarine could not have traveled far.
“That’s all right,” said the captain, “Keep your scope up and we’ll shoot that SOB down the throat.”
(a few edge-of-your-seat paragraphs later O’Kane writes)
… the wire was steady on. “Fire!” and we headed for the bottom, rigging for depth charge.
The range on firing had been 750, which was the best, especially since the time for our first torpedo hit had now gone by. The props of our last torpedo had been blanked out by those of the destroyer, which were now roaring through our hull. There was no other noise, only her screws now menacingly close. We were passing 80 feet, and men commenced bracing themselves for the coming depth charges; though still confident, I chose the spot between the scope and the TDC.
The first depth charge was severe, but only to our nerves, and we braced ourselves in earnest for the pattern that would follow. A mighty roar and cracking, as if we were in the very middle of a lightening storm, shook Wahoo. The great cracking became crackling, and every old salt aboard knew the sound – that of steam heating a bucket of water, but here amplified a million times. The destroyer’s boilers were belching steam into the sea.
“We hit the son of a bitch!” rang out in unison from the whole fire control party, and doubtless throughout the boat. Never could apprehension and despair have changed to elation more abruptly. Already, George had an up angle on the boat in anticipation of the captain’s order, and with speed to help, had Wahoo back at periscope depth.
USS Bremerton Alumni participated in a campaign in support of the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museumthat was completed in early 2020.
An update from CAPT. Chuck Merkel, Executive Director at the museum:
This is a quick note to update you on our renovation. When we broke ground in January 2019, we knew there would be challenges, but no one envisioned a world-wide pandemic. I am happy to report that we are on track to complete our project early next year. For the latest progress photos, I am regularly updating the drop box at this link:
The final grand-spanking total qualified our group for the $25,00024 inch SSN and it was created in silver to stand out from the crowd. Yes, some killer donations came through on behalf of the Bremerton to bring us up to the highest level. The result is something every BADFISH sailor can take pride in.
The inscription is a composition of several shipmates’ ideas and crafted to fit in the allowable space.
“Dedicated to the USS BREMERTON (SSN 698) Her Officers and Men
Submariners Standing Ready to Defend Our Country”
698 LOOKING FORWARD
USS Bremerton, the most senior not yet de-commissioned submarine in the United States Navy, is currently at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard preparing for her date with destiny. Decom ceremony and reunion in Bremerton are tentatively scheduled for Spring of 2021, that puts BadFish on course for a 40 year run.
SAVE THE 698
Join the Movement. Are you passionate about preserving the USS Bremerton in any way shape or form? Do you wish to be involved before, during and after her decommissioning in whatever works are needed to establish the memory of 698 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.